Parents who are able to make active choices in the education of their children report greater satisfaction with their children's academic achievement, and studies have shown a positive correlation between parental involvement and student performance.  Likewise, competition among schools has led to improvements in school curricula and greater responsiveness to parents and students as schools begin treating them as customers. 

The Facts:

  • Parental participation and satisfaction is most important.  Researchers John Witte, Troy Sterr, and Christopher Thorn conducted a definitive evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and reported that in "all five years, parental satisfaction with choice schools increased significantly...."  Witte, et al., were able to conclude that choice parents increasingly participated in their children's education--a key element for improving academic achievement.  "Similarly, parental involvement, which was more frequent than for the average MPS parent in prior schools, was even greater for most activities in the choice schools." [123]

  • School choice has improved academic performance for many students.  School voucher programs, publicly and privately funded, have demonstrated success among their students, according to many studies.[124]

  • Limited school choice through charter schools continues to be popular, particularly among the most needy families.  Charter schools remain popular with parents, students, and teachers.  Although more than 2,000 of these schools were created between 1991 and 2000, many charter schools have waiting lists ranging from 200 to 1,000 students.  The average waiting list is 141 students, or nearly 60 percent of the average charter school's enrollment.[125]  These "new" schools have created educational opportunities for children that previously did not exist.

  • Competition encourages improvement in all schools.  When two large charter schools opened in the mid-Michigan area in the 1996-97 school year, the Lansing School District "lost" over 700 students to these government schools-of-choice.  As a result, the district began to implement new programs and launched an advertising campaign to tout its new and improved offerings.  The exercise of choice by less than 5 percent of the district's student population generated better programs for the over 17,000 students who remained in the traditional government schools.[126]  A study of schools in Wayne County, Mich., revealed that rather than harming the cause of better education, competition among public schools has resulted in a more customer-oriented focus in some districts.[127]  Ultimately, children benefit when public schools compete.



[123]       John F. Witte, Troy D. Sterr and Christopher A. Thorn, "Fifth-Year Report: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program,"  University of Wisconsin-Madison , December 1995.

[124]       The following is representative of recent research on school choice available from the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University: David Myers, Paul E. Peterson, David Mayer, Julia Chou and William G. Howell, "School Choice in New York City After Two Years: An Evaluation of the School Choice Scholarships Program," Mathematica Policy Research and the Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, August 2000; William G. Howell, Patrick J. Wolf, Paul E. Peterson and David E. Campbell, "Test-Score Effects of School Vouchers in Dayton, Ohio, New York City, and Washington D.C.: Evidence from Randomized Field Trials", Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, August 2000; Patrick J. Wolf, Paul E. Peterson and William G. Howell, "School Choice in Washington D.C.: An Evaluation After One Year", Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, February 2000; William G. Howell and Paul E. Peterson, "School Choice in Dayton, Ohio: An Evaluation After One Year", Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, February 2000; Paul E. Peterson, David Myers and William G. Howell, "An Evaluation of the Horizon Scholarship Program in the Edgewood Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas: The First Year", Mathematica Policy Research and the Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, September 1999; Paul E. Peterson, William G. Howell and Jay P. Greene, "An Evaluation of the Cleveland Voucher Program After Two Years", Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, June 1999;  Paul E. Peterson, David Myers and William G. Howell, "An Evaluation of the New York City: School Choice Scholarships Program: The First Year", Mathematica Policy Research and the Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, October 1998; Paul E. Peterson, Jay P. Greene, William G. Howell and William McCready, "Initial Findings from an Evaluation of School Choice Programs in Washington, D.C. and Dayton, Ohio", Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, October 1998; Paul E. Peterson, Jay P. Greene, William G. Howell and William McCready, "Initial Findings from an Evaluation of School Choice Programs in Washington, D.C.", Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, September 1998;  Paul E. Peterson, Jay P. Greene, and William G. Howell, "New Findings from the Cleveland Scholarship Program: A Reanalysis of Data from the Indiana University School of Education Evaluation", Program on Education Policy and Governance and the Center for American Political Studies, Harvard University, May 1998; Paul Peterson, David Myers, Josh Haimson, and William G. Howell, "Initial Findings from the Evaluation of the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program", Mathematica Policy Research and the Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, November 1997; and Jay P. Greene, William G. Howell and Paul E. Peterson, "Lessons from the Cleveland Scholarship Program", Program on Education Policy and Governance and the Center for American Political Studies, Harvard University, October 1997.  Available on the Internet at http://hdc-www.harvard.edu/pepg/ .  Additional school choice information can be accessed at www.mackinac.org and www.schoolchoiceworks.org, or through the organizations listed in Appendix B on pages 57-58.

[125]      Charter Schools Today: Changing the Face of American Education (Washington, D.C.: The Center for Education Reform, 2000) pp. 116, 114. 

[126]      Mark Mayes, "Lansing Schools to Unleash Marketing Push," Lansing State Journal, 5 May 1997.

[127]       Ladner and Brouillette, The Impact of Limited School Choice..

Also Available As

Share More …