CATO Report Linking School Choice with Improved Teacher Quality Ignores Contradictory Evidence


October 25, 2006

For Immediate Release


Contact: Teri Battaglieri, Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

(517) 203-2940 (e-mail)

Raymond Pecheone, Stanford University

(650) 723-4106 (e-mail)


EAST LANSING, Mich. — A  recently released policy analysis from the CATO Institute which asserts that school choice, in the form of private-school vouchers and charter schools, will improve the quality of teachers and relies on selectively cited research and ignores many other factors that have a bearing on teacher quality according to a Think Twice review of the report.


The report, Giving Kids the Chaff: How to Find and Keep the Teachers We Need, by Marie Gryphon, claims that the current educational system is a major barrier to attracting highly qualified teachers because of compressed pay scales and the fact that public school administrators fail to hire and support the best applicants. School choice, she argues, will provide the incentives necessary to change such practices.


In their review of the report, Raymond Pecheone and Ash Vasudeva of Stanford University find that Gryphon’s initial premise – that teacher quality plays an important role in improving educational outcomes – is well founded in the educational research literature.


However, her subsequent conclusion – “competition and choice induce improved hiring practices and more flexible compensation policies, which in turn attract and retain high-qualified teachers” – lacks the same sort of broad-based evidentiary support, the reviewers write.


 “In the end, the report’s failure to consider alternative interpretations of empirical research on hiring and compensation undermines the validity of the findings and conclusions, as does the failure to identify research that does not corroborate an ‘achievement effect’ for charter and private schools.”


The CATO report contends that administrators in school districts where there is competition, in the form of charter schools or other school-choice programs, “gave quality higher priority in the hiring and retention process.”  Pecheone and Vasudeva note, however, that a more accurate and compelling explanation for variation in teacher quality in these districts may be that teachers self-select into schools with better working conditions.


“If teacher self-selection into schools (rather than managerial hiring policies and practices) is chiefly responsible for placement, then improving school working conditions should be the priority,” Pecheone and Vasudeva say.


“While it may be argued that schools competing for talented teachers will improve working conditions to attract them, this argument ignores resource disparities between and across schools and districts as well as the communities in which they are located.”


Find the complete review by Raymond Pecheone and Ash Vasudeva as well as a link to the CATO Institute report at:


About Think Twice


The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to identify, develop, support, publish and widely disseminate empirically sound research on education policy and practices designed to improve the quality of public education for all students within the Great Lakes Region. 

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