Evidence Continues to Mount on School Choice Gains

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has just published a new report – titled A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice – showing that recent research proves that communities that adopt school choice solutions not only reap benefits in the forms of better academic outcomes for their students, but also save money and promote an integrated classroom environment.

The report looks at twelve empirical studies that have specifically researched student outcomes based on school choice participation. All employed random assignments by using as a study group only those who have expressed a wish to take advantage of school choice offerings in their communities.

Of the 12, 11 studies showed definite academic improvement among school choice participants, compared to their non-participating peers. In six of the studies, all students derived benefits. In five, a percentage of participants saw improvements while a portion did not. Only one study showed no academic gains of any kind.

Twenty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Of these, 22 find that choice improves public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found that choice harms public schools.

Six empirical studies have examined school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six find that school choice saves money for taxpayers. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.

The cultural impact of school choice policies is not examined as closely as the academic impact, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t equally important. The report looks at 8 empirical studies that attempted to determine what role school choice policies play in reducing racial and ethnic segregation in schools. Seven studies found that school choice programs succeeded in transitioning students from a more segregated to a less segregated environment, while a single study showed no impact on school segregation at all.

School choice also proved to be a good tool for promoting civic values in today’s students, helping to prepare them to be engaged citizens of tomorrow. Five of the seven studies found a definite change in attitude among school choice participants towards better understanding and acceptance of values and practices of good citizenship.

The size of the benefit provided by existing school choice programs is sometimes large, but is usually more modest. This is not surprising because the programs themselves are modest—curtailed by strict limits on the students they can serve, the resources they provide, and the freedom to innovate. Only a universal school choice program, accessible to all students, can deliver the kind of dramatic improvement American schools desperately need in all five of these important areas.