The newest book from the Cato Institute, School Choice: The Findings, brings together the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available summarizing the research on charter schools, vouchers, and public vs. private school effectiveness. The book by Herbert J. Walberg sets aside policy and philosophical controversies about school choice, instead focusing on empirical results.
To those who have advocated for school choice and have seen its effectiveness, the results may not be totally surprising, but their width and depth may surprise even its most ardent supporters. The findings reviewed in this concise book first examine but then go far beyond academic achievement. The focus is on rigorous studies – monitoring achievement over time, based on a large number of students, additionally covering students' civic engagement, cost comparisons across school types, and public and parental opinions about schools and school choice.
These findings are so crucial today, because the United States is arguably the world leader in income, wealth, military power, and cultural influence and is in the top tier for scientific and medical discoveries, higher education, and in the productivity of a wide number of industries. But there is one area in which the U.S. is far behind: public education. U.S. citizens pay more per student for K-12 public education than nearly all other economically advanced countries in the world. Further, the costs are rising each year to get the same (or in many cases, worse) results in public schools.
School Choice: The Findings demonstrates that in the majority of areas where school choice could have a potential for impact, its positive effects are conclusive, including in such areas as point-in-time academic achievement, value-added over-time achievement gains, cost efficiency, parent satisfaction, citizens' favorable regard, and social integration. This book underscores the tremendous strides made when families have access to the resources offered by school choice.