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New York Not Only Model for School Choice

In an otherwise fine September 22nd article on a new study showing that New York City students who win a lottery to enroll in charter schools outperform those who don’t win spots, John Hechinger and Ianthe Jeanne Gugan write in the Wall Street Journal:

Critics of charter schools have long argued that any higher test scores were not necessarily attributable to anything the schools were doing, but to the students themselves, on the premise that only the most motivated students and families elected charters. Ms. Hoxby’s study sought to address that argument by comparing students who attend charters directly with similarly motivated students — those who sought to attend charters but were denied a seat through a random lottery. She concluded the charters did have a positive effect.

This is all true but Hechinger and Gugan make Hoxby’s study seem like the first of its kind. This is not true. In Washington, DC the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences conducted a very similar study that compared test results of students who were offered scholarships to attend private school through a lottery with
a control group of students who applied but were not offered vouchers. Heritage fellow Dan Lips describes the results:

Students offered scholarships were performing approximately 3.1 months ahead in reading of students not offered vouchers. The authors note that this gain represents a statistically significant positive effect.

Hechinger and Gugan also note:

The study, led by Stanford University economics Prof. Caroline Hoxby, is likely to fire up the movement to push states and school districts to expand charter schools — one of the centerpieces of President Barack Obama’s education strategy.

But this leaves out the fact that the Obama administration has moved to kill the Washington DC school choice program, even going as far to rescind scholarships already awarded to families who were planning to attend the school of their choice.