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Study: Competition Spurred By Vouchers Limits Long-Term Public School Performance

By Jeanie Lindsay, IPB News | Published on in Community, Education, Government
Canbolat says although mild benefits from increased school competition do occur, his research suggests those fade over time. (Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News)

A study looking at school choice in Indiana suggests competition spurred by vouchers limits public school performance over time. The researcher behind the findings says it’s a critical piece to better understand how school competition affects equity in education.

The study focuses on voucher participation and private school density around public schools, and uses eight years of state school choice and test performance data.

Yusuf Canbolat is a doctoral student at Indiana University and is the researcher behind the study. He said the findings suggest that while there are short-term benefits of private school competition around public schools, they fade over time.

“In the long term, they lost their relatively high achieving students and it affects the overall proficiency rates in high-competition schools,” he said.

Canbolat said students in private schools don’t necessarily perform better than their public school peers – private schools can be more selective with their enrollment.

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He said that’s one reason why it’s vital for policymakers to consider how programs are designed and the context school choice works within – especially because of income and other disparities among different groups of people.

But Canbolat said more research is needed about how the loss of high-achieving students affects classrooms as well as how schools adjust programs in response to surrounding competition.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.