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Experts: School choice improves education in public schools

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By Mary C. Tillotson | Watchdog.org

Students’ ability to leave public schools may actually improve the educational quality at those taxpayer-funded institutions, says an expert.

That’s because public schools tend to improve programming for the students who stay, said Matthew Ladner, senior adviser for policy research at the Florida-based Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The program is the biggest school voucher program in the country, and it allows students with disabilities to transfer to a different public school in the district or an adjacent district, or to a private school, with state funding following the student.

Ladner spoke at the National Summit for Education Reform, hosted by the foundation, last week.

“Having the option to leave if you need to makes it less likely that you’re going to need to do so,” he said. “We see remarkable academic improvement among some of the most disadvantaged students in the entire public school system. These are public school gains, these are the students, quote, ‘left behind in the damaged public school.’ They’re making remarkable academic progress.”

“There’s zero evidence that it has damaged the public school system in any way,” he said.

Research on the Florida Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher program struck down by the state supreme court in 2006, provides further evidence, said Christy Hovanetz, senior policy fellow at the foundation, at the summit.

The scholarship program awarded vouchers to students in underperforming schools. Researchers looked at D-rated schools and compared those with an F in their history and those without.

The schools with an F in their history had threats of students using vouchers to leave, and they significantly increased student achievement, Hovanetz said.

“Even though there’s choice, not that many people are taking advantage of it, but it’s doing more to help improve the schools in which the students stay as well as a choice for parents who believe they have a better option for their student,” she said. “Choice does make a difference in student performance — not just for the students who opt for the choice, but also for everybody who sticks around in those public schools.”

Contact Mary C. Tillotson at mtillotson@watchdog.org.

Written by Leatherneck Blogger

October 25, 2013 at 06:00

Posted in Other

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