President Trump’s recent education budget proposal has received a great deal of attention for cutting education by $9.2 billion or 13.6 percent. The administration is proposing an additional $400 million for vouchers and $1 billion more in Title 1 funds to support school choice. While details of the budget will evolve as it moves through the congressional approval process, it is likely that we will see an increase in funding that expands school choice.
School choice is a controversial topic with advocates believing it will drive innovation in education and civil rights advocates and education reform leaders raising concerns about the unintended consequences to public schools, especially those serving the most vulnerable population, low-income families.
In a recent study by the Associated Press NORC Center for Public Research examining Americans’ understanding and attitude towards school choice, 47 percent of respondents said they favor expansion of charter schools and 45 percent favor vouchers. In that same study, 58 percent have heard little about charter schools and 66 percent have heard little about school vouchers.
As we prepare for the expansion of school choice, it’s critical to consider the facts and research:
Research and Facts on School Choice
- A study by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools indicates there are more than 6,900 charter schools, enrolling an estimated 3.1 million students, triple the number of the past decade.
- In a 10-year longitudinal study evaluating student academic outcomes at KIPP schools, school choice was found to have a significantly positive effect on student outcomes, with the strongest gains in elementary grade levels and lesser gains at the high school level.
- On the other hand, a study of the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) found substantially reduced academic performance among the students at charter schools. In this study, negative effects were most highly concentrated in schools with the lowest tuition cost.
- A Florida study of charter school graduates found that they earned 12 percent more post-graduation than traditional public school graduates. This same study found that the charter school graduates were 12 percent more likely to persist through the second year of college enrollment.
- A Texas study found results that contradict the Florida results. When looking at all types of charter schools the study found no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings.
Taking this mixed bag of facts into consideration, here are five ways education technology can support educators in a shift toward school choice as it presents new opportunities and challenges.
1. Innovation and Improving Schools
A key principle behind school choice is competition. When schools compete for student enrollments, they will innovate and differentiate themselves in an attempt to provide higher quality education and better meet the needs of 21st century learners.
A number of charter schools are breaking away from traditional paradigms and reimagining learning, tapping into how students learn and the physical educational environment. Schools are adopting project-based, competency-based, and collaborative learning while incorporating new technology in authentic, relevant experiences.
These innovations include a wide variety of programs from blended and personalized learning and 1:1 device initiatives to more cutting edge programs that leverage 3D printing, robotics, and virtual reality. High Tech High, a network of charter schools in San Diego, CA is an example of how educators can break traditional notions to provide students with innovative spaces to encourage authentic, real-world learning experiences.