Report Advocating School Choice for All Lacks Evidence
EAST LANSING, Mi., (March 3, 2010) – A new review of a recently released Brookings report finds that it fails to provide the necessary evidence to support its call for a federally led, universal expansion of school choice.
The Brookings report, Expanding Choice in Elementary and Secondary Education: A Report on Rethinking the Federal Role in Education, was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Professor Janelle Scott of the University of California at Berkeley.
In her review, Scott identifies three major shortcomings of the report: it relies too heavily on research in progress and research produced by advocacy organizations; it neglects prior research concerning the nature of parental choice; and it fails to acknowledge that unconstrained school choice has segregative effects.
Scott points out that much of the research used to support the authors' central arguments for expanding school choice is generated by advocacy organizations and, to some degree, reflects research in progress. Accordingly, the report's enthusiasm for school choice's ability to generate desirable education policy is oblivious to empirical research that overwhelmingly points to complications in school choice formation, implementation, and evaluation.
Scott also highlights the research showing that parents tend to choose schools largely based on racial and social class demographics as opposed to indicators of school quality. Because the Brookings report fails to acknowledge this, its recommendations do not include elements that would prevent those choice patterns from undermining the report's stated equity goals. "An expansion of school choice without provisions that incentivize and support the creation of diverse schools would likely inhibit the open enrollment choice terrain the authors imagine," Scott writes.
Further, while Scott credits the authors for setting the goal of expanding quality educational choices, and acknowledges that many parents generally want better schooling options for their children, she concludes that the report "never supports its underlying assumption that this particular expansion of school choice is what parents want in federal educational reform." By contrast, national polls find that for parents, the No. 1 priority is the lack of resources for schools. "Accordingly, if policy makers wish to attend to parental preferences, the best approach would seem to be more attention to resource shortages in schools and across schooling systems," Scott writes.
Find Janelle Scott's review as well as a link to the Brookings report at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.
About The Think Twice Project
The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.
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