NEPC Review: School Choice and School Performance in the New York City Public Schools—Will the Past be Prologue?
Over the past decade, big city school systems have scaled-up choice initiatives with remarkable speed. In School Choice and School Performance in the New York City Public Schools, Brookings contends that school choice and competition contributed to improved test scores and graduation rates in New York City since the universal high school choice reform began in 2004. However, after the report’s lengthy introduction describing and extolling choice and competition, only four pages are dedicated to discussing results, and many of those contentions are problematic. Brookings uses data from several recent reports to conclude that Bloomberg’s school reform strategy has paid off academically for the district’s students, including low-income and historically disadvantaged students. However, these conclusions are mainly based on causal interpretations of correlational data, and the findings are presented selectively. Similarly, the report’s recommendations section, based on Brookings’ Education Choice and Competition Index, promotes the expansion and development of Bloomberg’s programs, without a logical link to the evidence presented. Consequently, the paper belongs more in the genre of weakly supported advocacy pieces rather than research.