Friday, February 14, 2014

Measuring Competition

The most interesting aspects of school choice, to me, are the outcomes associated with traditional public schools near newly opened “schools of choice.” School choice was a fairly alien topic to me until graduate school. I grew up in a town with one high school and the only school of choice was a Catholic grade school. I am likely primarily interested in the effects of how the competition generated by schools of choice change (or do not change) traditional public schools due to the fact that my experiences as a student in primary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate school and my experiences as a teacher have all been in public schools. Moreover, despite the focus of the media, policy-makers, and researchers, schools of choice are, and will remain, a small segment of the educational landscape.

Through reading the literature on the effects of competition, I was surprised to learn the wide range of findings associated with the effects of competition. In summary, studies have found that school competition may improve[i], impair[ii], or have no effect[iii]  on traditional public schools. Through examining these studies, it became clear that while all of the studies claim to examine the effects of competition, a wide range of measures and methods are being used to define competition.
Thus, the problem. Educational researchers are seeking to answer questions and inform policy makers about issues surrounding school choice, but without agreed definitions and consistent measures, researchers will likely continue to find conflicting evidence. This problem is not exclusive to competitive effects, or even school choice, but it continues to be a problem nonetheless. Obviously educational programs and policies do not exist in a vacuum and solutions of chemistry or physics do not translate to studies of school choice, but how can educational researchers build an evidence base with a foundation that includes common definitions and measures?
I do not seek to answer this question here, but to start a conversation that may one-day result in answers. What are your thoughts? What is the next step? Is this even a problem?

Bettinger, E. P. (2005). The effect of charter schools on charter students and public schools. Economics of Education Review, 24(2), 133-147. Doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2004.04.009
Bifulco, R., & Ladd, H. (2006). The impacts of charter schools on student achievement: Evidence from North Carolina.  Education Finance and Policy, 1(1), 50-90. Doi:10.1162/edfp.2006.1.1.50
Bohte, J. (2004). Examining the Impact of Charter Schools on Performance in Traditional Public Schools. The Policy Studies Journal, 32(4), 501-520.
Booker, K., Gilpatric, S. M., Gronberg, T., & Jansen, D. (2008). The effect of charter schools on traditional public school students in Texas: Are children who stay behind left behind? Journal of Urban Economics, 64(1), 123-145. Doi:10.1016/j.jue.2007.10.003
Buddin, R. J., & Zimmer, R. W. (2005). Is charter school competition in California improving the performance of traditional public schools?. RAND.
Carr, M., & Ritter, G. (2007). Measuring the competitive effect of charter schools on student achievement in Ohio’s traditional public schools. Research Publication Series, National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
Holmes, G. M., DeSimone, J., & Rupp, N. G. (2003). Does school choice increase school quality? (No. w9683). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Hoxby, C. M. (2003). School choice and school productivity: Could school choice be a tide that lifts all boats? In C. Hoxby (Ed.), The Economics of School Choice (pp. 287-342). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Imberman, S. A. (2007). The effect of charter schools on non-charter students: An instrumental variables approach. University of Houston.
Imberman, S.A. (2011). The effect of charter schools on achievement and behavior of public school students. Journal of Public Economics 95,(2011), 850-863. Doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2011.02.003
Ni, Y. (2009). The impact of charter schools on the efficiency of traditional public schools: Evidence from Michigan. Economics of Education Review, 28(2012), 571-584. Doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2009.01.003
Sass, T. (2006). Charter schools and student achievement in Florida. Education Finance and Policy, 1(1), 91. Doi:10.1162/edfp.2006.1.1.91
Winters, M. (2012). Measuring the effect of charter schools on public school student achievement in an urban environment: Evidence from New York City. Economics of Education Review, 31(2012), 293-301. Doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2011.08.0

[i]  (Bohte, 2004; Booker et al., 2008; Holmes, DeSimone, & Rupp, 2003; Hoxby, 2003; Sass, 2006; Winters, 2012)
[ii] (Bettinger, 2005; Carr & Ritter, 2007; Imberman, 2007; Ni, 2009)
[iii] (Bifulco & Ladd, 2006; Buddin & Zimmer, 2005)

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