In support of Ohio’s charter school and voucher programs, conservatives point to the wonders of “school choice.” But a new Policy Matters Ohio report revealed school choice may not be the boon supporters make it out to be.
Citing a study from Community Research Partners, the Policy Matters report found the extra mobility enabled by school choice programs can lead to a worse education. Students who changed schools frequently performed worse than their peers, and the higher mobility can also put a strain on teachers and staff by forcing them to make accommodations for new students.
The Policy Matters report pointed out the two findings directly contradict the basis for more school choice: “School choice advocates envision parents and students acting as consumers in an education marketplace, trying out different schools until they find one that ‘fits,’ but as this study shows, the movement this implies clearly has far-reaching effects on teaching and student learning.”
The report also looked through previous literature to gauge charter schools’ academic results.Research from the Rand Corporation and Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found only 17 percent of charter schools performed better than traditional public schools. Compared to their public school counterparts, charter school students did worse in math and showed no difference in reading.
An analysis of Ohio’s 2011-2012 achievement test scores by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found only 6 percent of charter schools met the state goal of having a performance index of 100 or higher and only 10 percent rated excellent or above.
The Policy Matters report attributes the poor academic results to faulty regulations. Lax rules and oversights were uncovered by a report from the Rand Corporation. In another report, Policy Matters unveiled poor oversight and loopholes in Ohio state law, which CityBeat covered here.
Poor academic results also applied to voucher programs. An in-depth look
at Cleveland’s voucher program from the Center for Evaluation and Education
Policy found voucher-toting students performed at the same level as students who did not use vouchers.
Around the state, public school students outperformed voucher students in third to eighth grade achievement tests, according to the Policy Matters report. Students in public schools did better in math, while both types of students had mixed results in reading.
Voucher programs have been particularly controversial because they can end up subsidizing private, religious schools — possibly violating separation of church and state.