Breaking Down “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice”
As educational choice grows, so does the evidence proving it works.
In today’s release of the fourth edition of a Friedman Foundation flagship report—A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice—author Dr. Greg Forster says,
“Twenty years ago, before this body of evidence existed, there was some excuse for making policy based on speculation, anecdotal observation, and intuition. Today, the effects of these programs are known, and there is no longer any excuse for policymakers and opinion leaders to be ignorant of the facts.”
Unfortunately, many people still are. To better educate the public and policymakers on what the empirical evidence says about school choice programs, we created the slide show below. We encourage you to click through and share it, or read on for our traditional text-only summary of A Win-Win Solution’s findings.
The Truth: The majority of gold-standard studies of school choice programs find kids do better with school choice. Of the 18 random-assignment studies on the topic, 14 show positive effects; two show no visible effect; two show negative effects.
This edition of A Win-Win Solution is the first to feature studies that find negative effects on choice participants. Both of those studies examined the same program—the Louisiana Scholarship Program. The reports show student deficits in the program’s first year, but student improvement in its second year. Because its results appear to be anomalistic, researchers are watching this program closely. (For a more thorough breakdown of this study’s findings and what they mean for parents and policymakers, check out this blog post.)
What Opponents of School Choice Say: School choice hurts the students “left behind” in public schools.
The Truth: Nearly every study on the topic, even those conducted by anti-school choice organizations, shows school choice programs drive academic improvements in public schools. Of the 33 studies on the topic, 31 find a positive effect; one finds no visible effect; one finds a negative effect.
It is important to note that the one negative finding in this category is hard to explain given that nine other studies find a positive effect from the same voucher program. That study’s authors even say in their report, “Despite the exhaustive data available, we are not currently able to explain the negative effect of the threat on reading performance definitively.”
What Opponents of School Choice Say: School choice “siphons” money from public schools at the expense of kids and taxpayers.
The Truth: Every fiscal study ever conducted finds school choice has either a positive or no visible effect on taxpayers and public schools, meaning most programs save money. Of the 28 studies included in A Win-Win Solution, 25 show a positive effect; three show no visible effect; none show a negative effect.
Shortly after the Friedman Foundation finalized this edition of A Win-Win Solution, another fiscal impact study on Louisiana’s voucher program was published. That study found positive effects as well. (You can find it here.)
What Opponents of School Choice Say: School choice worsens racial segregation in schools.
The Truth: Public schools are more segregated now than they were in the 1960s, and not one study has ever found school choice causes segregation in schools. Actually, data show school choice programs help students leave more segregated schools to join more integrated schools. Of the 10 empirical studies on the topic, nine show a positive effect; one shows no visible effect; none show a negative effect.
What Opponents of School Choice Say: Private schools have a bad influence on kids.
The Truth: Many studies find school choice programs have a positive effect on students’ civic values, including tolerance for the rights of others, likelihood to vote or volunteer and more. Of the 11 studies on the topic, eight find a positive effect; three find no visible effect; none find a negative effect.
In fact, one study finds school choice reduces the likelihood of a student engaging in criminal activity after graduation.
Empirical Studies on School Choice
|Academic Outcomes of Choice Participants|
|Academic Outcomes of Public Schools|
|Fiscal Impact on Taxpayers and Public Schools|
|Racial Segregation in Schools|
|Civic Values and Practices|
What Opponents of School Choice Say: Yeah…well…this report just cherry picks studies to show what school choice advocates want to show.
The Truth: This report examines 100 studies that all used rigorous and high-quality research methods. The results are what they are, and the scoreboard is overwhelmingly in favor of school choice policies.
We understand that can be a hard pill to swallow for many skeptics.
A full explanation of this report’s methods can be found on pages 6–8, including how the author identified and categorized the studies found therein. If our readers should come across a high-quality study not included in this report, we encourage them to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the end, there’s more to school choice’s story than what the data say.
Parents want choice.
To read more analysis from this synthesis of 100 empirical school choice studies, visit edchoice.org/Win-Win.