Monday, September 10, 2007

PPF Pearls: Improving school choice

Professor Paul Hill of the University of Washington has called for stronger governmental oversight of school choice programs in the latest issue of Education Week, noting that "...when one school neglects a student or doesn't pay its bills, government agencies crack down on everyone. Schools need oversight that is capable and fair, not negligent."

Prof. Hill also recommends that choice schools "prove themselves on the same tests as other schools," since "early hopes that charter and voucher schools would be so obviously great that no finely calibrated outcomes measured would be needed to prove it have been dashed."

The Forum would agree with those recommendations, as our research over the past 10 years has consistently revealed a need for more accountability in school choice.

Our first study, issued in 1997, interviewed parents in Milwaukee and Cleveland, the first two cities with publicly-funded private school choice, and found they felt they needed more information about their schooling choices. We then conducted two public opinion surveys in Wisconsin and Ohio and found consensus among the general public for having an agency, either independent or governmental, oversee and collect information about choice schools and for requiring schools to provide to the public information such as test scores.

For a comprehensive understanding of the need for greater accountability in publicly-funded school choice, as well as recommended policy options for improving choice programs, read School Choice and the Question of Accountability: The Milwaukee Experience, which resulted from the Forum's many years of research on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

UPDATE: Mike Ford of School Choice Wisconsin sent the following in response to this post. Mike is right that schools participating in the voucher program must now take standardized tests; however, these test scores will be used to study how the choice program performs in the aggregate as compared to MPS. Scores will not be reported on a school-by-school basis.

Your blog post today, "Improving school choice," fails to mention the additional accountability in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) since your book was published. Today, MPCP schools face a rigorous accreditation process, take nationally normed standardized tests as part of a longitudinal study (results of which will be reported to the state Legislative Audit Bureau and publicly released), and must meet a multitude of financial viability requirements. The barriers to enter and stay in the MPCP are significant, as evidenced by the
number of schools removed from and prevented from entering the program.
Reasonable people can have differing opinion on whether this is enough accountability, but I think it would benefit your blog's readers to mention these new requirements.
Thanks for listening,

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