More school choice, including charters, is linked with better performance

By April 6, 2021 May 27th, 2021 News, Research

States with abundant, accessible school choice programs boast higher student performance. That’s the key finding of a new University of Arkansas study from researchers Patrick Wolf, Jay Greene, Matthew Ladner, and James Paul.

Specifically, the study evaluated states’ levels of education freedom, along with student performance on NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP tests students in 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.

The report authors write:

We find that higher levels of education freedom are significantly associated with higher NAEP achievement levels and higher NAEP achievement gains in all our statistical models.

To measure choice, researchers evaluated private, charter, homeschool, and public school choice programs in each of the 50 states. For instance, they looked at the proportion of all K-12 students involved in each kind of program. They also considered states’ charter and homeschool laws.

Then, they created a 2021 Education Freedom Index, building on an earlier index created in 2000. Compared to other states, North Carolina ranked 38th in education freedom in 2000 and 31st in 2021.

In overall accessibility of charter schools, NC ranked 20th. Here’s a screenshot–but see page 11 of the report for the full ranking.

 

The authors conclude:

The evidence gathered here indicates that increased family options in K-12 education can be useful in spurring broad improvements in student learning along with being desirable in their own right.

Read NC Senate Leader Phil Berger’s release about the study here.