School Choice Report Fails To Enlighten Education Policy Debate

The Education Choice and Competition Index receives an ‘F' grade



A resource for parents and educators interested in school choice called the Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI), an  interactive web  portal designed to grade school districts based on thirteen categories of policy and practice has received failing marks from top education researchers.


According to a review produced by the National Education Policy Center, the recent finding by the Brookings Institute and its self-developed school choice index fail to advance education policy decisions and only rehash old arguments for unregulated school choice.


David Garcia, associate professor at Arizona State University, reviewed the December 2012 report, published by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, "The Education Choice and Competition Index: Background and Results 2012," and found it makes no substantiated connection between parental satisfaction and the purported collective benefits arising from market-based education policies.


Garcia also criticized the Education Choice and Competition Index, noting the only large school district to receive an "A" rating, the New Orleans Recovery School District, was graded a "D" by the Louisiana Department of Education and 83 percent of its schools were labeled "D" of "F".
The index uses 13 categories, including the percentage of students enrolled in alternative schools other than traditional public schools and whether the district closed more than 3 percent of its schools in the past five years. Garcia noted some elements of the index hold districts accountable for factors beyond their control, such as the presence of affordable private schools.

"Most recently, under the No Child Left Behind Act, parents in low-performing schools were given the option to transfer schools at district expense. Yet, less than 1 percent of eligible parents availed themselves of the opportunity," Garcia wrote. "The foundational logic of this report is based on how one would expect consumers to behave in the private sector. Parental responses under previous coerced choice plans, however, do not match consumer behaviors."

The Brookings' report does not address existing research on what compels parents to choose a school, Garcia added. "The recommendations place ultimate faith on parents choosing schools based on test scores. Yet, it is well established that parents choose schools based on many other factors, such as safety, academic missions and student demographics," Garcia wrote. "Formal sources of information, such as standardized test scores and state-derived labels like those promoted by the authors, are one of the last sources that parents consider when making decisions."


Garcia concluded the weakness of the index's subjective scoring system, as well as the lack of research behind the report's recommendations, make the Brookings' product fall short of being an effective policy tool.

For questions, please contact:
David Garcia: (480) 727-7413, david.garcia@asu.edu
Dan Quinn: (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org


Find
The Education Choice and Competition Index: Background and Results 2012 by Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst and Sarah Whitfield on the web:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/2012-ecci

Find the Think Twice Review on the Great Lakes Center website:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review is also available on the National Education Policy Center website: http://nepc.colorado.edu

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