“School Choice Week” Is a Good Time to Review the Evidence, NEPC Reports

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National Education Policy Center spotlights its lengthy portfolio of evidence-based research on school choice.

With “National School Choice Week” once again at hand, the National Education Policy Center reminds us that sound policymaking should be based on research-based evidence, not the ideology of enthusiasts.

Choice Week was created by staunch advocates of choice policies. Accordingly, the Week is generally used to advocate for choice as a goal in itself. The result is that policy is driven by ideology, rather than evidence and research. If the evidence were heeded, however, choice approaches would simply be one of many tools used by policymakers to carefully craft policies in ways designed to advance important societal goals for educating each and every child. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-welner/rethink-school-choice_b_2272043.html)

The National Education Policy Center has published research on various forms of school choice, including charter schools, virtual schools, vouchers, and neovouchers (vouchers created through tax credit mechanisms). For example, an NEPC research brief (http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/schools-without-diversity) documents the segregation and stratification arising from charter schools run by Education Management Organizations. Importantly, a subsequent NEPC legislative policy brief (http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/chartering-equity) points to research-based practices that could be employed to create charter schools that are much more equitable.

Similarly, while NEPC research has pointed to disheartening concerns (http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/virtual-schools-annual-2014) about the current direction and results from online k-12 schools, another legislative policy brief (http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/online-k-12-schooling) outlines ways to move forward in an evidence-based, cautious way.

A search of the NEPC website using the topic “school choice” yields dozens more documents on the subject. As the School Choice Week discussion moves forward, we encourage people to use this and other research to inform that discussion.

“School choice is now a widespread feature of US schooling, deserving of scrutiny as well as celebration,” says University of Colorado Boulder Professor Kevin Welner, NEPC’s director. “Our children do not benefit from a headlong rush to increase school choice. Instead, choice-based policies should be wisely and carefully crafted, prudently learning from the lessons of research evidence.”

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on the NEPC, please visit nepc.colorado.edu/.

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William J. Mathis

Kevin Welner

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National Education Policy Center (NEPC)
since: 03/2011
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