Panel Paper: Values and Evidence for Assessing School Autonomy and Parental Choice

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 10:25 AM
Washington Ballroom (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Susanna Loeb, Stanford University
Internationally, states are devolving some of the management of schools to the school site, giving principals more control. Hand-in-hand with increased local control and the diversification that accompanies this decentralization, parents are gaining greater say in their children’s school assignment.  This paper uses the approach developed in the first paper to analyze policies of school autonomy and parental choice, such as charter school policies in the US.  All school systems must make decisions about how schools are formed and how schools are closed; about who teaches in schools and what curriculum is taught; about which students attend which schools and about which classes each student takes.  Charter school policies give more responsibility to parents and to school leaders over many of these decisions.  This decentralization of decision making may affect the development of educational goods for students who attend charter schools as well as for students in other schools, as school competition and the easier entry and exit of schools either increases or decreases educational effectiveness and the increased role for parents refocuses educational goals on those that parents care about.  Such decentralization, can also affect the distribution of educational goods as the variety of schools increase and parents become more important actors in school selection for their children.  Moreover, these schools are likely to affect the school systems’ provision of independent values, changing students’ experiences in schools and increasing parents’ abilities to affect their own children, as well as potentially affecting democratic values as other community members potentially loose some control over their local public institutions.

This paper identifies the values that are in play in this policy domain.  It then goes on to describe the empirical evidence assessing the effects of these reforms on valued outcomes and describes the implications of the values and evidence analyses for the development of policies that increase school autonomy and parental choice.