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Event Transcript
December 13, 2000

New York City Conference on School Choice

Panel Discussion: Synthesizing the Evidence: What Research Tells Us about the Effect of School Choice on Student Achievement

How does school choice impact student achievement and parental satisfaction? Does competition improve the public schools? What have we learned from America’s largest publicly and privately funded voucher programs, and what questions are left to be answered? Panelists will discuss the state of research into the effect of school choice programs on student performance—both the performance of participating students and that of students who remain in the public schools.

    Jay Greene, Manhattan Institute
    Paul Peterson, Harvard University
    Eugene Hickok, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education
    Moderator: John Gardner, Milwaukee Public Schools

MR. OLSEN: Thank you very much. We're now going to be moving on to the next section of our agenda which will be our first panel, "Synthesizing the Evidence: What Research Tells Us about the Effect of School Choice on Student Achievement." But I hope you can give a big round of applause to all of the electeds who were able to speak here, and you'll be hearing from Mayor Norquist later this afternoon and from Assemblyman Faso later this afternoon. Secretary Hickok will be on this upcoming panel. So if the panel can come up, and please give a round of applause to our electeds. [Applause]

MR. GARDNER: Morning. You know, in Milwaukee when we say good morning people answer back good morning. [Laughter] I'm from New York City so I'm not surprised by your lack of responsiveness, but we got some midwesterners here so let's do a kind of down home friendly good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

MR. GARDNER: Okay. It's pretty mediocre, but it's better than I expected. We're going to be operating on a pretty tight schedule here because we're going to a) get back on schedule for the program, b) because we have a lot of people with a lot of things to say that I think are pretty central to the arguments that are going to be emerging state by state and city by city in the next couple of decades in this country.

I'm John Gardener, I'm the at large or citywide director in the proud city which is the proud home of the new face of public education in America. We do public education through governmental, independent, religious, home, and free to choose surrounding district sectors. And that's something that the school board in the Milwaukee public schools strongly supports. We think that's the way to do public education. We think in fact, we're redefining public education to mean education of the public as their primary mission.

We have with us today three distinguished Ph.D.s, long-term researchers in academic and public effectiveness at educational institutions, all of whom in different ways have done very specific research on evaluating school choice and competition in various educational markets in America.

Paul Petersen is Shattuck [Phonetic] professor of government at Harvard University, and he's also the editor of a forthcoming new monthly journal in education called "Education Matters." The first issue is next month. You can log onto it at Look forward to that.

Jay Greene is one of his former students who's been the lead researcher doing three very intensive educational research projects in a number of cities that have already experimented with school choice.

And Eugene Hickok is the Secretary of Education in the State of Pennsylvania as well as having a long history in educational performance and effectiveness as professor of government at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

And I'm proud to say that Hickok is also a school board member. So Mark Twain's comments about school board members notwithstanding, you have two school board members standing up here talking about the importance of school choice.

We're going to start with Professor Peterson. Because we're running a little behind schedule we're going to have a brief panel discussion after these presentations, but we will not have time for questions and answers. Professor Peterson has to run out at 11 o'clock. I'll be happy to hold forth since they won't let me have a platform today at lunch table, and I won't charge you anything for the meal ticket either.

We're going to start off with Professor Peterson. [Applause]

PROF. PETERSON: Good morning. I apologize for having to leave at 11, but it does show you the power of choice in competition in education. I'm at Harvard University which is in deep and serious competition with Yale and Princeton and a few other places out there. And as a result the professors at my school are told they have to teach their classes. [Laughter] And I actually have a class at two o'clock today so I got to catch that 12 o'clock flight and get back up there, the good Lord and Delta willing. [Laughter]

So let me try to be as to the point as I can in the few minutes that we have here. I am sure you all know the facts that are up there on the screen. We have a lot of voucher programs in the United States today. These aren't all of them, but as you know, there's one in Florida, there's the Nationwide Children's Scholarship Fund that the mayor was talking about, the Forstman program, it's often called. There's a program in San Antonio that the Children's Education Opportunity Foundation runs. There's one in Washington, D.C. which might become the basis for a very large-scale voucher program if Congress puts its mind to it in the next couple of years. There's one in Dayton. There's one here in New York City. And then there's the one in Ohio, the Cleveland one that is going through the courts, might make it to the supreme. And the Milwaukee one which we know a lot about, both the early one and the expanded one.

And in one way or another all those that are starred up there we have been doing evaluations and so we have some findings from all of these programs, either available or in the works.

In the studies that we are the most pleased with are the ones that are in Dayton, Washington, D.C. and New York City. We have a research design that allows us to do some pretty careful estimates of what the effects of vouchers are on student performance. We have information on how well those students were doing at baseline. That is, before the voucher program began. These were students in public schools at that point in time and we know how well they were doing. They weren't doing very well. They were well, well below the national average, scoring in about the 20th to 30th percentile in most of these places.

We also were able to look at students who won the lottery and compared them to students who didn't win the lottery. And that sets up a situation where you've got something like a medical research design where some people get the pill and some people get the placebo and you can find out whether or not the pill actually works. The FDA says you have to do this kind of research in order to show that it actually works; that the pill is effective. What's amazing in education is that almost no intervention is studied in this way. But in the case of vouchers we are able to do so. And we have now studied the program in these three cities for two years. We know what's happens at the end of the first year and what happens at the end of the second year.

So this is basically what I've just said. The first year in Washington and Dayton was September 1998 and we have the results in the spring of 1999. And in the spring of 2000. And in Washington we're going to go back and get the third year this spring. We also have the same information for New York City but it's one year previously.

Now the samples we have are a pretty good size. Around 1500 in New York City, 500 in Dayton and about a thousand in Washington, D.C. Now that's not a good size from the point of view of seeing what a great big voucher program would look like, and that's where we need to move in the future. But it is big enough so you can find out whether or not these effects on these kids are real ones or not.

So I'm just going to cut to the quick real fast here. And this is what we found on average in our three cities combined on the math and reading tests that we gave two years later. We found that for non-African-American students we didn't see any impact after two years. School choice is not a magic bullet. It isn't going to transform things overnight for all kids. And we did not see any effects after two years. Maybe after three, maybe after four years we'll start seeing some effects on test scores, but we didn't see it right away.

But for African-Americans we saw big effects right off the bat. A three point gain in year one, six point gain in year two. Something important is happening right away for the black students who switched from the public schools to the private schools under the voucher program.

We have the results broken out by city, but because time is short I'm going to flip through the next three slides, because I want to emphasize why we think we're getting these results for African-Americans. When we asked parents, and on the slide we just have it for Dayton, but we have the same results in all three cities, we find that the amount of disruption in the school is so much less in the private schools as compared to the public schools. The private schools are in green up there on the slide; the public schools are in blue or purple. And you can see that the amount of fighting, tardiness, cheating, property destruction, missing classes and racial conflict is much higher in the public schools that these students were attending in Dayton as compared to the private schools. And the same is true in Washington, D.C. The exact same pattern shows up, and the same exact pattern shows up here in New York City.

So the climate of the school changes dramatically. Now we've done some preliminary look at the test scores and we find a direct correlation between the amount of disruption within the school as measured by — now, this is, we're asking the parents. The way we get this information is well, the kids are being tested. We hand out a survey to the parents and we ask them a whole bunch of questions, and some of the questions say well, how serious is this problem at the school? And then we list what the problem is and we ask them how serious, and then they say this is a very serious problem at my child's school. And if the child's in a public school they say these are very serious problems; if they're in the private school they're not.

And this turns out to be, in our opinion, the biggest factor that's affecting the differences in student performance.

Now class size has come up as the possible explanation for why the private schools are doing better. And it is true that the class sizes are slightly smaller in the private schools than in the public schools in these three cities that the voucher kids are going to. The private schools have an average class size of about 21, according to the parents in Dayton, 25 in the public schools according to the parents in Dayton. And it's about the same in New York City and Washington, D.C. A little bit less of a difference in those two cities. About three instead of four. So they're slightly smaller.

The best studies of class size reduction say you have to get a class reduction of at least eight students per class to have much of an effect. So it's unlikely that class size is an effect. And when we do our own analysis of the data we can't see, in fact we get the perverse finding that you do better in large classes than in smaller classes. So we don't really feel that these small differences in class size are producing the differences. We think that the climate of the school is much more important than the class size.

Now one of the questions that comes up is well, if you get a voucher does it really allow you to get into the school of your choice? Because these are low-income families. Maybe the private schools discriminate against them. Maybe they say we don't want people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The only ones who can get these vouchers are low-income families who are at the poverty line or just a little bit above the poverty line. But we find that in fact if they do get a voucher about 85% do get into the school of their choice, and we found this in Dayton. We also found this in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Now it's true that some don't. And so we asked well, why didn't you get into the school of your choice? And space was not available, or transportation problems. But the biggest factor is the cost. These vouchers were not that large. They paid about half the tuition. And so one of my recommendations is I like Governor Johnson's suggestion that you go to four thousand. These were about fifteen hundred dollar vouchers. Going to the four thousand dollar approach I think is a good idea. I wouldn't mind going a little higher because you're not going to give everybody the choice unless you give a good-sized voucher.

Now what do the parents say? Do they like their voucher schools? Well, this is about the easiest question to answer because those who are in private school are much more likely to give their school an A than those who remained in the public schools. If you look at Dayton it's about 50% to 8%. And then if you get a cross-section of Dayton public school parents, those who didn't bother applying for a voucher, about a quarter of them give their school an A. So you get about twice as high a percentage of parents who are willing to give their school an A if they're in a private school as compared to a cross-section of all the parents in the Dayton public schools.

And we don't have quite the same data for the other cities, but where we've looked at the same finding, and we're starting to look at this nationwide, this finding I think is going to hold up elsewhere than just in Dayton. There's a little wrinkle on the screen there, but if we just ignore that, parental satisfaction with the school, we asked the parents are you very satisfied with the class size, academic quality, the school safety and parental involvement. And John, you go back to being a school board member, would you? [Laughter] What was it that Mark Twain said about school board members, I forgot.

MR. GARDNER: [Inaudible]

PROF. PETERSON: Okay. Yeah. [Laughter] So just take it from me, parents really like their schools; they're very satisfied. They're much more likely to say that the school is run in a way that's responsive to parents.

We also looked at the amount of homework that is asked of the students. It's much higher in the private than the public schools. And the amount of communication with the parents is greater.

Now one of the big criticisms of our studies that comes out in the media every time we release a new study, is well, you're not comparing the same kids. But that's exactly wrong. And what makes our studies, in my not-so-humble opinion, really interesting studies, is that the two groups of families that we're looking at are exactly alike. You can't explain any of our findings because of the differences in the families. Because all these families wanted a voucher, all of them tried to get into private schools. Only some of them got the voucher. A lottery decided who got the voucher.

You got two groups of families that are exactly alike. We compared the two groups. What we find is that those who are lucky enough to get the voucher and go to a private school, really good things happen. They go to a more orderly school. There's more homework, there's more communication with the family. There's higher test scores if they're African-Americans. There is greater satisfaction. And this suggests to me that if we're going to move forward with the school choice movement we need to move forward in our central cities and we need to concentrate on those parts of the country where the problems in public education are the greatest. Thank you very much. [Applause]

PROF. GREENE: Hello, I'm Jay Greene. I come from Broward County in Florida where I'm proud to say my vote has been counted at least three times. [Laughter]

There are actually now five programs that meet the gold standard of research design in which students are randomly assigned treatment and control groups as in medical research. In addition to the three programs that Professor Peterson just described to you, there are also programs in Charlotte, North Carolina and in Milwaukee that have also been the subject of study which are random assignment programs where students by lottery were given to access to private school or not, and these two identical groups are compared in each of these cities. And this allows us to know with pretty high confidence whether there are benefits to those who participate in these choice programs.

And the answer is pretty clear across these five programs. This is a question that does not require a recount. It appears as if there are significant benefits to the participants in these programs. But that leaves unanswered two very important questions about whether school choice programs are desirable in general. One is, is it the case that school choice improves the quality of education for the system as a whole? Not just for those who participate in the programs, but for those who don't participate. Or as it's sometimes framed, what about those left behind? So I'm going to try to address that question.

And the second question that I'm going to try to address if I have time is, what does school choice do to integration and civic values that we believe are necessary for the proper functioning of our governmental system such as it is?

And so let me first address the first question. Is it the case that school choice improves the quality of education for the system as a whole, and not just for those who are given opportunities to go to private school? Now, we have two plausible theories about this question. One theory suggests that increasing the ability of families to choose a school improves the quality of education in the system as a whole by providing schools with this incentive to be attentive to the needs of individual children. After all, if they don't attend to the needs of children, those families can go elsewhere with their money and child.

On the other hand, we have a theory that says that perhaps choice would drain certain schools of talent and resources and in doing so might benefit those who leave those schools but impoverish the education of those left behind.

So which of these plausible theories is supported by the evidence? Now, I'm afraid to say that these five very high-quality studies that we have on school choice don't really address this question. None of these programs are large enough or have been around long enough to really see systemic effects of school choice, with the possible exception of Milwaukee, and perhaps John Gardner will be able to tell us more about that later on. And there are some very interesting anecdotes from Milwaukee of some really significant improvements in the system as a whole in Milwaukee. But nevertheless, we have no systematic evidence from any of these five programs about whether choice improves the quality of education for the system as a whole.

But we do have two other studies that I'll try to describe to you that do address this question. And the way they address the question of whether choice improves the quality of education as a whole is that they take advantage of the fact that we already have school choice. We have school choice for some families. Some families can choose where they live to obtain access to desired schools. Some can afford private school tuition. Some can choose charter schools, inter-district school choice programs, or home schooling.

And so the different ability of different families to gain access to these options means that we already have school choice. So the question is, will expanding school choice provide benefits to the system as a whole, not simply having school choice or not. Well, what if we compare different areas of the country. Compare some areas of the country that have more options available to other areas of the country that have fewer options available. If choice improves the system as a whole it should be the case that where we have more choices available we have better student outcomes than where we have fewer choices available.

One of the studies that I've done to address this question was recently released by the Manhattan Institute and it's called the Education Freedom Index. And what it does is it measures the extent of choice available in each of the fifty states. It measures how much charter school, private school, home school, inter-district school choice, and relocational choice is available in each of the fifty states, and comes up with an index to measure the amount of choice available in general in each of the fifty states.

As it turns out, in those states that have more choice available you have better student outcomes. You have better student test scores than in those states where there are fewer choices available. And this is true even after controlling for many of the characteristics that we think are also important influences of student test scores such as family income, per pupil spending, class size and racial composition.

So it appears as if looking at the school choice that's available right now, in those places where there's more choice available we have better academic achievement for all students, choosers and non-choosers alike than we do in those areas where there are fewer choices available. And that suggests the hypothesis that expanding school choice is likely to improve the quality of education even for students who are not active participants in the program.

A second study along these lines was conducted by Harvard economist Caroline Minter Huxby. And what she did, she looked at different metro areas around the country. As it turns out, some metro areas have a lot more school choice available than others. For example, Boston. The metro area of Boston has more than a dozen school districts within the metro area. You have a whole lot of school districts to choose from. You can choose to live in Cambridge or Somerville or Waltham. And all of these different school districts are all within the same area and so it's very easy for people to choose where they live, work in the same place, have the same friends. The cost to choosing in Boston is very, very low.

On the other hand, Miami-Dade County in Florida is one giant school district for the entire county. And this is true in all of the counties in Florida. We have one school district per county. If you're not happy with the schools in Miami-Dade you have to move to the next county which means almost certainly leaving your job, leaving your friends, leaving your family behind. It's a very high cost to choosing in Miami-Dade. And a relatively low cost to choosing in Boston.

Well, what Professor Huxby does is she looks at this ease of choice in all metro areas across the United States. And what she finds is, as you would expect, in those metro areas with more choices available you have higher student test scores at lower per pupil expenditures than you do in areas with fewer choices available. Again, it appears as if choice helps improve the quality of education for choosers and non-choosers alike.

So now let me turn, in the few minutes that I have, to the question of, well what about integration and civic values? Does school choice damage our democracy even if it improves the quality of our education? And here again, the evidence is contrary to what critics claim. For example, it's the case right now that in private schools, private schools are on average better racially integrated than are public schools.

I know that this hard to grasp given the strongly held belief that it's otherwise, but if you examine the National Education Longitudinal Study which is data collected by the U.S. Department of Education, you'll find that over half of public school students are in classrooms that are almost entirely white or almost entirely minority in their composition. That is, more than 90% white or more than 90% minority in the racial composition. And that's over half of our public school students are in classrooms that look like that.

In our nation, in private schools, about 40% of students in private schools are in similarly segregated school classrooms. Conversely, if we look at classrooms that are well-integrated, a third of private school students are in classrooms that have a racial mix that's representative of the racial mix of our country, compared to only one in ten of public school students.

So as it turns out, private schools are actually better racially integrated than public schools. And the reason for this actually makes sense if you think about how it is that we design our public school system. We base it on where you live. So what we end up doing is reproducing, and in fact reinforcing racial segregation in housing patterns. By assigning students to schools based on where they live we end up with the same kind of racial segregation that we have in where they live. And in fact we get even more because families are reluctant to live on the wrong side of some politically drawn line which actually exacerbates racial segregation in housing.

So that's private schools are they are now. But what about under school choice programs? If we increase access to private schools do we end up with well-integrated schools? Well, as it turns out, studies of the school choice programs in both Cleveland in Milwaukee find that the private schools that the students attend with vouchers are better racially mixed than the public schools they left behind. Again, because the public schools they left behind were highly segregated and they were highly segregated because again, students were largely assigned to schools based on where they lived.

Now even in Milwaukee and Cleveland where there were public school choice programs within the public school district, it didn't help because it didn't really bring in a whole lot of students from outside of the school district. And those city school districts were highly racially homogenous. Which meant that almost all of their schools were also racially homogenous.

Now what about civic values like tolerance? If students go to private schools will they learn to be bigots? Will they learn to be intolerant? Here there's more limited evidence, but still some intriguing evidence. One study that I conducted examined a group, a national sample of adult Latinos from the Latino National Political Survey. And it asked a random sample of adult Latinos where they went to school every year when they were children, and it also asked them a standard battery of tolerance questions.

And the way that tolerance is measured is you are asked to name your least liked group, and then you're asked whether you would let members of that group engage in certain political activities. Like run for elected office. And as it turns out, the more private schooling that people had, the more willing they were to let members of their least liked group engage in political activities than—and this is true even after controlling for other demographic characteristics of people who had more private schooling.

So again, despite the suggestion that a system of government-operated schools is essential for the imparting of essential civic values, or essential for guaranteeing integration, it appears as if these civic goals of education are actually well-served in the private sector.

So that was the additional evidence besides the very high-quality random assignment that Professor Peterson described, that I wanted to bring to your attention, was the research here on these other two important questions, does choice improve the quality of the system as a whole, and does choice affect civic values. And the answer appears to be that choice appears to improve the quality of education as a whole as well as protect the civic purpose of schooling. [Applause]

SEC. HICKOK: Good morning and welcome. Thank you for taking the time out of a busy schedule to be with us this morning. A couple of reactions, if I could, sitting in Pennsylvania as Secretary of Education where we've struggled for five-plus years to try to get a large voucher program in place — we have charter schools and watch [Phonetic] this spring we'll try it one more time, and I think we'll be successful on school choice. A couple of observations based on the presentation so far.

First of all, I want to applaud Harvard for its faculty and its students. What a novel concept. They force the teachers to teach. Congratulations. Most importantly, though, I want to applaud what I heard because for the first time in a long time you're seeing serious scholarly analysis of education. And that is sorely needed.

One of the challenges I confront as Secretary of Education, and I think anyone who's serious about improving education confronts is the fact that good solid data-driven research is hard to find. It is a field of public policy. Has always been a field of public policy as far as I'm concerned where research is by anecdote. And we read books and stories and articles that tell us reams and reams about quote, "best practices" and leads to fads and trends like whole language. And then we reverse ourselves and try something else.

And so finally one of the great things about this whole choice debate, no matter where it ends up across the country, is that it is forging a discussion on real hard analysis. And based upon what I heard this morning, and it's not new to me, I have done the research and read the research, it seems to me that the research, at least so far, early, limited in time and scope as both our speakers pointed out, the research tells me that the notion that somehow those of us involved in education have a choice to make between public education and school choice. Either you support public schools or you're anti-public school and you support choice. That's a false dichotomy. And I think it's a very important point from the research.

It is a false dichotomy. The fact is that school choice is all about in the long run, as our earlier speaker said, changing the nature of public education. Creating a new concept of public education. Look at the some of the charts that Professor Peterson was able to demonstrate. What did they tell us? That children exercising choice and going to schools of choice seem to be doing better. Minority students seem to be doing better.

Now, why should that surprise us? That's a reflection of human nature. The schools they attend seem to have a better climate. Why does that surprise us? It shouldn't. It's a reflection of human nature. If you choose to be somewhere then the tendency is you're going to like being there because you exercised that choice. You're going to be more involved as a parent because you made the deliberate choice to take your child from this place to that place. This should not surprise us.

So the nice thing as far as the data tells me is that it reinforces the common sense and the logic and the human nature that underwrites the whole concept of school choice. Parents are pleased with the choices they have made. And the beauty of school choice is if they're not pleased they can remove the child and go somewhere else. So in the end it makes only common sense that they would be pleased with where they end up because they looked, perhaps shopped, and made some choices.

More choice means better results. We just heard that. Again, it seems to me that emphasizes the human nature and the concept of it. Now I'm not going to make the argument which many of my colleagues make, although I believe in it, that choice creates competition and competition will improve everything. I happen to believe that. But the fact is that at least with the limited amount of analysis we have so far, the data is pretty compelling. There is a direct correlation between results and opportunity.

Now we live in the nation in this world that is the home of opportunity. It created the concept. Are we surprised that results come from greater opportunity? We shouldn't be.

And then on the notion that somehow choice will or will not nourish our democracy. The great concern people have, and I think it's a fair concern, if we create this idea of people choosing schools that they will all go to non-public schools or certain kinds of schools, it will create a society in which you have the haves and the have-nots. And public education which has nourished this great democracy suffers and hence our society suffers. And the research so far tells us the exact opposite, because surprise, surprise, a lot of schools of choice, a lot of private schools are a whole lot better at mirroring society than public schools are.

So the bottom line for me is really very simple. It's not a dichotomy between public education and schools of choice. It's a change in the nature of public education that is needed. And school choice must be a part of that.

And we must continue the emphasis on the research. One of the great, great accomplishments that I've seen in the last five years is the emergence of serious research. We need to find ways to demonstrate what's really happening for two reasons: one, first and foremost to create an educational bottom line. So no matter what the issue is we do have relevant information so we can make tough choices. I call it an educational bottom line because education as a field of public policy has been very good at eluding such a bottom line. And when we have results it's been very good at trying to make sure that those results are not part of the decision-making process. We don't want to relate student performance to teacher performance. And yet we all agree that the teachers are the single most important person in the classroom.

We don't want to relate student performance to whether or not we reward schools for outstanding performance or we deal with schools that always underperform. We have to start doing that. We have the analysis, we have the data, we should not close our eyes to it.

In Pennsylvania this spring we will produce a report card for every school district that's not produced by the state, it's produced by Standard & Poors. And for the first time anywhere you will see an analysis of the performance of schools as a function of spending. What a novel concept. That's the second thing I'd like to comment about in terms of the research. We're focusing on results. Not just process, not just inputs, but what is happening. That is very important. That discussion is relatively new to education. We have always focused on spending; now we're focusing on results. What the money buys.

And the most important thing to do with those results is to produce it in a way so that it is impossible to ignore failure, and easier to recognize success, and to build upon it.

From where I sit as a policymaker, and I have colleagues all over this nation who experience the frustrations and the ecstasy of this job, the fact is that we are in the middle of what I consider to be a culture shift in education in this country. The common sense and logic of school choice is so compelling that my prediction is analysis like this will grow and become more compelling, and eventually school choice will indeed become much of what we do in education, and education, public education will experience a reformation because of it. And in the end that will serve this democracy far better, far better than any of us at this early stage in the debate can envision. Thank you. [Applause]

MR. GARDNER: We're going to have a real break which means we're not going to have time for questions and answers, but there are a couple of things I'd just like to get the opinions of our three distinguished panelists on before we do break.

However, a word from Milwaukee public schools. I just want to say in the last ten years since there has been, I mean, we're the only place in the country that's actually had a program to scale for ten years. I just want to point out that the number of specialty schools, international, baccalaureate, language immersion curriculum, arts curriculum, Montessori and schools of that sort that we had when choice started, we had eleven schools of that nature with a total of 2,400 students. Today we have 26 of those schools with a total of 6,800 students within Milwaukee public schools. Ten years ago we had twelve K-8 schools with a total of 5,600 students. Today we have 22 K-8 schools with a total of 11,800 students.

We had early childhood, that is, before K-4, at six schools for 478 students. Today we have 82 early childhood programs with 4,700 students. Ten years ago we had one school with full day before and after child care with a total of 312 students. Today we have 126 schools with before and after child care programs with more than 56,000 students in them. These are numbers within Milwaukee public schools.

The idea of what the controversy of what happens to a public school system in an environment of competitive school choice is, if I can use this expression with my distinguished Ph.D. colleagues up here, has become academic in Milwaukee. Because competition works, not just for a student body, but for Milwaukee public schools. And I hope someday we can get the evidence that demonstrates that beyond the seat of the pants observations and the managerial obviousness of that conclusion from the point of view of the Milwaukee public school board.

Two questions I'd just like our panelists to respond to. I'm going to ask Professor Peterson since he has to go jump on that Delta shuttle and rudely run off in the middle of this panel, not out of any disrespect for Professors Greene and Hickok, are what future research is needed — that's always a popular question to ask three Ph.D.s, and secondly, what are the policy implications of the research to date? So Professor Peterson we'll start with you.

PROF. PETERSON: Well fortunately, this is the same question. Because right now we need to look at a large-scale voucher intervention somewhere. My preference would be Washington, D.C. The evidence is pretty strong that the students in Washington, D.C. need to have a choice. The public school system in the nation's capital is a disgrace. Something needs to be done about it. It's pretty hard to argue that the system could get worse in Washington, D.C. if you introduce a voucher program. You might make that argument in some places. I could understand that. Here is a place in the United States that we all care about a lot. And here is a place where we could learn a lot from introducing a major education reform. I think this should be the number one item on the school choice agenda.

MR. GARDNER: Thank you. Professor Greene, after you answer those two questions you might tell the audience how somebody as young as you gets to be called a senior fellow, but answer the two questions first.

PROF. GREENE: I suspect it's a little bit like executive vice president. But I agree. I mean, I think the thing we need next is a large-scale school choice program to study. Again, the studies that I mentioned on whether choice improves the system as a whole, take advantage of the fact that we have variation in the amount of school choice already available in the United States. But those are only suggestive, or argument by analogy to what would happen under a large-scale choice program. The only way to know for sure is to have one. And I think the evidence to date is encouraging enough that it's worth trying a large-scale program. D.C. is a logical place to try it. And I think there's no other way to know.

Some people attempt to learn by looking at foreign school choice programs in New Zealand, Chile, Belgium. The trouble is that there's so many things that are different in the political and cultural systems of those other country that the argument by analogy there simply doesn't work. And so the only way we're going to learn about the effect of large-scale school choice programs in the United States is to try it, and I think there's enough evidence to support trying it.

MR. GARDNER: Secretary Hickok, this'll disappoint you, but you have the last word.

SEC. HICKOK: Have a nice day. [Laughter] It seems to me I would agree with that. I guess I would add a couple of other things. One is to try to tie the research on school choice not just to a larger example which I think obviously I want, just because I want more school choice generally, but also to those other indicators about spending and results, and citizen participation and satisfaction results. I really do buy, as corny as it seems, I really do buy into the idea that education is what nourishes a democracy. And if we've learned anything in the last couple of weeks it is that we need to do a lot better job of educating our democracy on how it works.

And I think there is a relationship between our national inability to understand a lot of what we do as a notion, and the quality of our education. And the research that we've seen so far tells me if we can redefine that process of education, what I call a reformation in public education, so that it really does start, not with the system and not with the district, but with the student, I think that can lead to the kind of nourishing of a democracy that education's supposed to provide.

So for me to tie results and choice and funding and citizen satisfaction is very, very important.

MR. GARDNER: Thank you. My academic career got derailed early in life. I never got a Ph.D., but in thirty years of quantitative regression analysis in the art of conducting meetings as a professional organizer, I know there's no such thing as a ten minute break. So we're going to just stop now so that you really can get back here at 11:20.

[next section] [previous section]


Center for Civic Innovation.



This conference also available as MI CONFERENCE SERIES #4


Introduction and Opening Remarks

Welcome by Henry Olsen, The Manhattan Institute

The Honorable Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mayor of New York, with brief video presentation

The Honorable Gary Johnson, Governor of New Mexico

The Honorable Frank Keating, Governor of Oklahoma

Panel Discussion: Synthesizing the Evidence: What Research Tells Us about the Effect of School Choice on Student Achievement

Jay Greene, Manhattan Institute

Paul Peterson, Harvard University

Eugene Hickok, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education

Moderator: John Gardner, Milwaukee Public Schools

Panel Discussion: Report from the Grassroots: Responding to the Growing Demand for Alternatives

Mikel Holt, Milwaukee Community Journal

Teresa Treat, Children First CEO America

T. Willard Fair, Urban League of Greater Miami

Carol Reich, Beginning with Children Foundation

Moderator: Jeanne Allen, Center for Education Reform

Afternoon Remarks

The Honorable John Norquist, Mayor of Milwaukee

The Honorable Bret Schundler, Mayor of Jersey City

Panel Discussion: Choice and the Constitution: Debating New and Old Questions about the Constitutionality of Vouchers

Clint Bolick, Institute of Justice

Robert Chanin, National Education Association

Charles Fried, Harvard Law School

Elliot Mincberg, People for the American Way

Moderator: Joseph Viteritti, New York University

Afternoon Remarks

Professor Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor

Panel Discussion: The Future of School Choice: Learning from Michigan and California and Considering New Models of Increasing Educational Opportunity

Matthew Miller, syndicated columnist

Joe Overton, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

John Coons, University of California at Berkeley Law School

John Faso, New York State Assembly Minority Leader

Moderator: Bruno Manno, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation


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