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Study Implies that State's School Choice Program is Ineffective

Study Implicates that State's School Choice Program is Ineffective

School choice is a big topic in education right now, especially since it graces the education agendas of many 2016 presidential hopefuls. But a groundbreaking study based on Michigan's school of choice program that allows families to move their children to neighboring districts has found that it might not be such a good option, after all.

"[A] new study for the first time reveals that fewer than half stay in that neighboring district. And the students who most often bounce between schools are the students most likely to be hurt academically by the instability," said mLive.com.

Michigan's school of choice program has evolved into a popular option from its introduction in 1994. Now, according to the article, one in 12 Michigan K-12 students attend schools outside of where their residency dictates, or 100,000 children.

This study is the first that analyzes how school of choice students are doing.

"The records of nearly 3 million students between 2005-06 and 2012-13 were analyzed in the study, conducted by two Michigan State researchers at MSU's Education Policy Center and Vanessa Keesler, deputy superintendent for accountability at the Michigan Department of Education. The study focused on students who left their home districts for other traditional public school districts, not charter schools," said the article.

The study found that students who take advantage of school choice were primarily low-income, African American, and/or students that were performing poorly academically before switching.

"But those same at-risk students are the ones who are most likely to give up on their schools of choice, according to the study.

Among students who enrolled in kindergarten at a school-of-choice district, only 40 percent remained in a school of choice program by fifth grade," according to the article.

This is a problem because prior studies have shown that students who switch schools frequently learn less during that time, an adverse affect to the benefits of being able to choose schools.

Typically, students are moved from low-performing schools to higher-achieving ones, but even despite the switch, they are unlikely to remain.

"Those higher-achieving schools, however, don't appear to be the answer for the majority of school of choice students in Michigan. The same low-income, mostly African-American students who were struggling in their home school districts are the students most likely to switch back out of school of choice, according to the study."

The study has major implications for the effectiveness of school choice programs and will likely lead to consequential studies that focus on students who participate.

Read the full article here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

07/29/2015

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