Tuesday, April 19, 2011

School choice programs boasting higher graduation rates

The evidence showing students in school-choice programs are benefiting from the competition continues to mount.

A new report for School Choice Wisconsin by University of Minnesota sociologist John Robert Warren shows students participating in Milwaukee's nationally acclaimed school choice program were 18 percent more likely to graduate than students from all economic backgrounds in Milwaukee Public Schools.

In six of the seven years of data studied by Warren, Milwaukee Parental Choice Program voucher students had higher graduation rates than their public-school peers. During that time period, graduation rates rose for both choice and public-school students.

Another group of researchers at the University of Arkansas following the MPCP's success reached the same conclusion. A report released March 30 by a team led by professor Patrick J. Wolf found that Milwaukee's school-choice program "increases the likelihood of a student graduating from high school and enrolling in college."

How these researchers did it:

"At the start of our evaluation, we carefully matched the entire group of 801 9th-grade students enrolled in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program with a similar group of 801 9th-graders in Milwaukee Public Schools," Wolf said. "Four years later, the students in the voucher program were more likely to have graduated from high school and enroll in a four-year college than were their public school counterparts. Our estimates of the higher rates of college enrollment for the students in the voucher program ranged from 5 to 7 percentage points and were statistically significant in most of the comparisons."

The Beshear administration and its naive supporters in the legislature support a policy to force students to remain in high school until they age 18.

Of course, that is a politically correct, less-risky approach for politicians than offering parents a choice. Yet, the research increasingly shows that parental choice is working not only to keep kids in school, but also to move on to college.

Our education leaders claim their top priority is getting students college/career ready, yet they work to avoid the controversy surrounding school-choice programs -- mainly provided by teachers unions and bureaucrats who are staunch defenders and their fellow staunch defenders of the status quo in the Legislature.

But that's where the rub comes.

If the research shows that school choice programs are resulting in more kids graduating and going to college, but the teachers unions don't want it because they will lose control and power, whose interests are we going to go with: the kids or the adults?

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