15th 2012
Dougco School Board Approves Choice Program: Looking Back One Year Later

Posted under Courts & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Parents & PPC & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & School Board & School Choice & Suburban Schools

Can you believe it was one year ago today that the Douglas County Board of Education voted to adopt the groundbreaking Pilot Choice Scholarship Program? (Can you also believe that I was 5 years old then and am still 5 years old now? I need to talk to my Education Policy Center friends about this.) Time certainly flies.

So rather than diving into the news of the day, it seemed fitting to feature a brief retrospective. A lot has happened since then. To refresh your memory, here are some of the highlights:

In case you don’t want to read through all those newsy links, I also thought it would be great to share once more a couple of my favorite Douglas County school choice video footage from the past year, starting with the 2-minute Independence Institute production of Nate Oakley’s story:

And who can forget the fantastic, 8-minute Choice Media feature (which includes some clips of one of my Education Policy Center friends):

Looking ahead, the next few months will lead us into oral arguments before the Court of Appeals, bringing hope that — for the sake of the students — the injunction can be overturned. I’ll probably still be 5 when all that happens, too….


14 Responses to “Dougco School Board Approves Choice Program: Looking Back One Year Later”

  1. Choice isn't about choice on 15 Mar 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    The following information is from the National School Boards Association. It’s time that people see this movement for what it is. Those who advocate for “choice” are trying to destroy the foundation of our representative democracy; access to education for all.

  2. Eddie on 16 Mar 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    As if the NSBA is an unvarnished, unbiased source without a dog in the fight. What does the research have to say about school choice?

  3. Choice isn't about choice on 16 Mar 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    Yes, of course, the NSBA has a dog in the fight; public education. They don’t support taxpayer subsidized handouts for private education, and neither do the majority of Americans. What does the research about school choice have to say, indeed?

  4. Eddie on 19 Mar 2012 at 10:22 am #

    Does that link provide your best proof of what the research says about school choice? You can cherry-pick an anecdote of a less-than-high-quality study or you can survey the breadth of gold-standard research on the academic impacts of choice:

    There is also plenty of evidence showing that private school choice enhances students’ civic values (, which belies your far-fetched claim that giving students greater choice in their publicly-funded education somehow is designed “to destroy the foundation of our representative democracy.”

  5. Choice isn't about choice on 19 Mar 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Really? I have lots and lots of relatively unbiased studies to share. Data from the CDE website dispells the myth that school “choice” results in higher student achievement. It’s time to recognize that this is a far right-wing agenda that is being packaged and sold to the public. Truth doesn’t seem to matter anymore to people like you, Jon.

  6. Choice isn't about choice on 19 Mar 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    More for those interested:

  7. Eddie on 21 Mar 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Do you consider an article written by “Greg Anrig, the Century Foundation’s vice president for programs, the author of The Conservatives Have No Clothes: Why Right-Wing Ideas Keep Failing” unbiased? The article not only relies on beating up straw men but is also four years old (i.e., out of date). What we have are articles coming from both sides. A group that supports school choice naturally touts the strong evidence of academic research that supports their cause, but maybe they support their cause in part because the evidence is so strong. Consider the evidence they cite independent of their conclusions. A writer that opposes school choice opines against it and cites a few slivers of evidence. I’ll stick with the original links I posted.

    And BTW, my name isn’t Jon. But I see you also are from Colorado. Welcome to our blog and important discussions of education reform issues.

  8. Choice isn't about choice on 21 Mar 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    That’s the point exactly. There isn’t strong evidence of academic research that supports their cause. If there were, I’d support the “choice” movement myself. In fact, very few charters outperform neighborhood schools that serve the same neighborhoods. Some perform worse. Most perform the same. Data from the CDE website shows that, while charter school students do a little better initially, they fall behind by high school. And, by the way, charter schools tend to have much smaller class sizes. What would our public school elementary school teachers do with such a low student-to-teacher ratio?

    As far as private schools are concerned, the data show that private schools don’t raise student achievement either. Vouchers are meant to defund our public schools. Just admit that you are a market fundamentalist who is advocating for the privatization of schools in our country. The games that the “choice” advocates play aren’t gpoing to work as people become more aware of what’s behind it.

    I look at all the research available. Facts are facts, and the facts prove that school “choice” doesn’t improve student achievement. An investment in eliminating poverty and in our public schools would do wonders to improve student achivement and close the achivement gaps. Now that’s something we should support.

  9. Choice isn't about choice on 21 Mar 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    I know you have issues with the National School Board’s Association, but here’s more food for thought:

  10. Eddie on 22 Mar 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Closing one’s eyes to disbelieve the evidence that exists is fine. I choose to look at it with eyes wide open. Ten random-assignment (methodological gold standard) studies have been conducted of the academic impacts of voucher programs on participants. Nine show statistically significant improvements for at least some subgroups of participants, while none shows any negative impacts on participants ( This doesn’t include the similarly consistent positive results shown on public school performance through competition, on parental satisfaction and on student civic values.

    The study you cite in the link above is significantly flawed. The broad comparison of test score status tells us nothing of value about the effect of private school choice. As Harvard researchers showed: “Without information on prior student achievement, one cannot make judgments about schools’ efficacy in raising student test scores. Thus, NAEP data cannot be used to compare the performance of private and public schools.” (

    Any claim that vouchers and other forms of choice are magical, silver-bullet solutions to the nation’s educational woes should be discounted. But the evidence available from the larger body of quality research shows that modest choice programs tend to have modestly positive results (and in cases more significant results, such as educational attainment in Milwaukee), and never negative ones. Parents are happier and more engaged. Dollars are saved and usually spent more productively, never cause a fiscal harm. Where are all the harms opponents claimed would happen?

    If you look at all the research available, you must selectively ignore the high-quality studies that challenge your views and embrace the few lower-quality studies that support your views. Which is fine. How would “an investment in eliminating poverty and in our public schools” look different than the $10 trillion spent since the Great Society in 1965? And where will that money come from? What has spending 2.5x more real dollars per pupil since 1970 done to maintain achievement in public schools? I’ll put the track record of school choice next to that approach any day of the week.

  11. Choice isn't about choice on 22 Mar 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    No matter what study or data I provide, you will discount it as being low quality. I understand that. However, it is not you that I provide them for. There’s a larger audience that might benefit from the truth about school “choice.” I’m not saying that we can, will, or even should do something about poverty, but stop suggesting that school “choice” is the answer.

  12. Eddie on 23 Mar 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Somehow I don’t think we are that far apart. Who would suggest that school choice is “THE” answer for all that ails education? Studies show it is “THE” answer for some students, and that it is “A” systemic answer that should not be rejected outright. I don’t automatically discount the quality of studies based on their conclusions or whether you present them. I just ask you to put your citations in the context of aggregate findings of the highest-quality studies (i.e., random assignment method) on vouchers and choice. You, nor anyone else, has been able to refute that nearly all of these studies show some positive academic results for students or positive competitive effects on surrounding schools, and that none of them demonstrates harm.

    Above you provide two links highlighting one well-publicized study by CREDO that found mixed to negative results for charter schools in 15 states by comparing real charter students (apples) to virtual aggregate traditional public students (oranges). Of course, it reminds us of the obvious truth that charters are no panacea and that affixing a charter label to a school does not equate with success. Part of the basis for charter success depends on local laws and conditions. Consider a 2011 CREDO study of New Orleans charter schools, which serve a majority of the city’s students ( “Of 44 independent charter schools, 23 were improving at a significantly faster rate in reading, math or both than other New Orleans schools. Twelve charters were doing about the same. Nine showed slower progress; three of those have turned in their charters.”

    Nor does the older CREDO study have any applicability to Colorado, where charter schools typically outperform non-charter schools ( But it’s most helpful to put the research in the context of a national meta-analysis released last fall ( that found “Despite considerable variation among charter schools, there is ample evidence that charter elementary schools on average outperform traditional public schools in both reading and math, and that charter middle schools outperform in math.” AND “At the high school level, there is no overall significant effect of charter schools, but there is considerable heterogeneity, suggesting that in some locations charter high schools are outperforming, while in others they are underperforming.” The meta-analysis captured 25 studies, including the CREDO report you highlighted above.

    One has to be careful not to make claims that outstrip research findings, especially in education policy. The selective use of a study here or there may affirm preconceived conclusions. The big picture of research shows charter schools and choice programs in the whole provide modestly better academic outcomes and virtually none of the harms opponents have said they would. The policy answer is to thoughtfully pursue the expansion of choice as a means of enhancing access to effective learning opportunities. And that doesn’t even include greater customer (parent) satisfaction and other benefits.

  13. Choice isn't about choice on 23 Mar 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    Ahhh, but your original blog post was about the Douglas County School District’s Choice Scholarship Program, which is nothing more than a taxpayer-subsidized handout for private education. Let’s not stray too far (i.e. New Orleans) from the topic at hand. While a moral argument could be made for “choice” in failing districts in places like New Orleans and Washington D.C., the same cannot be made for Douglas County.

    The truth of the matter is that, despite significantly lower class sizes, charter schools do not outperform traditional schools overall. Add to that the disastrous state of online K-12 education in Colorado and you have a “choice” agenda that is neither fact-based nor research-driven.

    I think I’ve made my point and we’ll have to agree to disagree. Tell your buddies at the Independence Institute hello for me.

  14. Ed is Watching » Dougco Board Proposes Teacher Raises, Performance Pay, & Ending Union Privileges on 10 Apr 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    [...] good reason. The school board there has charted a bold course. Hey, it wasn’t much more than a year ago that they voted to establish the first locally-created private school choice program in the nation. [...]

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