School Choice Improves Student Learning

While evidence on school choice programs in the US indicates both benefits for student recipients and competitive benefits for public schools (not to mention greater parental satisfaction and racial integration), critics still decry school choice as “unproven” and claim that school choice programs haven’t been the panacea some supporters predicted.  Of course, the two criticisms go hand in hand – school choice programs have been very limited in scope (in no small part because of the opposition of the teachers unions and others), and thus we have not been able to test the effect of a marketplace for education anywhere in the US.

However, many countries offer students and parents far greater choice in education. Education Next has details on a new study comparing school choice and educational outcomes.  The bottom line is – the more school choice a nation has (both in terms of students choosing private schools, and the percentage of funding the follows the child) the better the academic performance of the country:

Our findings from an international study of 29 countries speak quite clearly. Competition from private schools improves student achievement, and appears to do so for public school as well as private school students. And it produces these benefits while decreasing the total resources devoted to education, as measured by cumulative educational spending per pupil. Under competitive pressures from private schools, the productivity of the school system measured as the ratio between output and input increases by even more than is suggested by looking at educational outcomes alone. Ironically, although Catholics historically placed less emphasis on education than did adherents of many other religions, their resistance to state-run schooling in many countries helped create institutional configurations that continue to spur student achievement.