Education freedom bring measurable benefits

A new study by Jay P. Greene, published by the Manhattan Institute, ranks the states on an Index of Education Freedom (IEF) constructed by the author (see table).

The index measures education freedom, or choice in education, based on such factors as the density of charter schools in the state, the existence or lack of inter-district school choice and degree of regulation of home schooling.

Furthermore, the IEF score of the states is a significant predictor of students' achievement, as measured by their performance on standardised tests, such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

  • A one-point rise in EFI for a state would increase the percentage of students performing proficiently on NAEP by 5.5 percent, Greene predicts.

  • A $1,000 boost in median household income would lead to a .3 percent increase in the percentage of students performing proficiently on NAEP.

  • But per pupil spending and average class size in each state have no significant effect on the percentage of students who perform proficiently on NAEP.

    In addition, a one-point increase in the Education Freedom Index leads to a 24-point increase in SAT verbal and math scores. Conversely, an increase in the minority population of one percentage point is associated with a 1-point decline in SAT verbal and math scores. Then again household income, per pupil spending and class size do not independently have a significant effect on SAT scores, although the income measure is close to significant in predicting SAT verbal scores.

    Source: Jay P. Greene, The Education Freedom Index, foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Civic Report No. 14, September 2000, Manhattan Institute, 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10017, (212) 599-7000.

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    RSA Note:
    The Manhattan Institute study, described above, provides an indication of the value of both devolved federalism and education freedom. American states take independent decisions on education policy, allowing the results of different policy options to be compared. Good policies can then be emulated and mistakes avoided. Unitary states do not have the benefit of the “demonstration effects” available to devolved administrations. Education freedom allows families to make choices and decisions about their children’s futures, something they are better qualified to do than anyone else. The benefits of both conditions show up in the study.

    (Eustace Davie, Director)

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