School Choices: Examining Variation in Charter, Private, and Non-Residential Alternatives to Neighborhood Public Schools
Friday, November 13, 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Japengo (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Joshua Cowen, Michigan State University
Panel Chairs: Deven Carlson, University of Oklahoma
Discussants: Martin R West, Harvard University and Wendy Castillo, University of Pennsylvania
Charter schools operate in 42 states. In at least 18 states, voucher or tuition-tax credits provide publicly funded access to private schools, and open enrollment/magnet programs offer choice within the public sector in nearly all states. Despite (or because of) the growth of these alternatives nationally, considerable debate remains over a number of major policy questions. In particular, critics and supporters of school choice disagree on the extent to which scholarly evidence has demonstrated positive impacts on the outcomes of students who participate; whether choice programs “cream-skim” advantaged students while leaving high-need students behind; the achievement and fiscal impacts of alternative sector competition on public school districts; and whether choice programs alleviate or exacerbate long-term social problems like racial or income-based segregation.
Still under-appreciated in these debates is the reality that choice programs are not monolithic. Even within one set of choice structures (e.g. charters, vouchers, non-resident district enrollment), providers differ widely with respect to academic mission, organizational structure, and overall effectiveness. Increasingly, this variation is implicit in the policy design governing choice programs, especially those in large, choice-rich urban environments. Parents in particular are encouraged under such policies to shop between schools to select the best option for their children’s needs.
This panel is devoted to exploring school-based variation within and between school choice sectors. Comprised of a diverse set of scholars from across the country working in some of the most dynamic and visible choice contexts available, the panel collectively examines school characteristics and the differences between students to whom those different schools appeal. Importantly, each of the three major choice policies—charters, vouchers, and open enrollment plans—are represented in this panel. Also represented is each combination of geographic focus: city-based, statewide and a national studies. Included are papers focusing on traditional, single-school pathways to enrollment, and more recent trends such as multi-school applications within portfolio management-style programs and iterative applications based on parent rankings. Overall, the panel will provide scholars and practitioners alike with cutting edge analyses of school differences and parent preferences for these differences in some of the most prominent choice settings in the United States.