Maybe parents aren’t dopes

Parents strongly prefer schools of choice, even when tests show only modest benefits, writes Rick Hess. Some think parents are “dopes.” Maybe parents know their kids are benefiting in other ways.

Directly relevant here is the intriguing new National Bureau of Economic Research paper School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment (pdf). What economists David Deming, Justine Hastings, Tom Kane, and Doug Staiger find is that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) open-enrollment initiative, which launched in 2001, yielded surprisingly substantial long-term gains for the participating students. They were able to track the results for nearly 20,000 students after high school graduation, and reported that students who won the lottery to attend a school outside their own neighborhood were more likely “to graduate from high school, attend a four-year college, and earn a bachelor’s degree. They are twice as likely to earn a degree from an elite university.” The researchers found no evidence of “cream skimming,” and noted that lottery winners closed nearly a quarter of the black-white difference in college completion.

Raising test scores aren’t the only way a school can help students, Hess writes.

Maybe parents who express high levels of satisfaction with choice see that their kids are better behaved and more focused, disciplined and academically engaged.

Maybe not. “But it seems as viable as the ‘parents are dopes’ hypothesis.”

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