WASHINGTON--Governors are increasingly expanding education options to help exceed their statewide education goals, according to a new report by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Center for School Change (CSC) at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
The report, Providing Quality Choice Options in Education, details a number of existing state school strategies to improve student achievement and raise graduation rates. The report, which is intended to be a guide for those governors interested in the issue, reviews a variety of state choice policies. In addition, it also features research and analysis both by proponents and critics of school choice.
"This publication will be a valuable tool for governors and other policymakers to help implement school choice options, as well as improve and expand existing school choice policies," said Dane Linn, director of the NGA Center's Education Division. "Many governors find providing students and parents with greater choice in the available educational options creates a more competitive environment. In turn, competition helps spur schools to improve performance and better meet the needs of their students."
The report highlights several innovative school choice policies and offers numerous recommendations for governors to consider. Additionally, the report provides guidance for those governors interested in creating new or refining existing school choice policies, which may include charter schools, vouchers, tax credits, and inter- and intradistrict enrollment or distance-learning opportunities. These recommendations, if implemented, should be considered part of a coherent and comprehensive public education system, the report says. The suggestions in the report include:
- strengthening and broadening charter laws;
- supporting transportation costs for low-income students;
- expanding eligibility for students to take college courses in high school;
- increasing the availability of virtual course offerings;
- providing equitable funding for all education providers; and
- adopting school-based funding mechanisms.
"The overall goal of this report is not to promote more school choice programs. Instead, the report seeks to help governors learn from and use various school choice plans to help their states reach critical goals," said Joe Nathan, CSC director. "These include improving overall achievement, reducing achievement gaps, and increasing the number and percentage of students who graduate from high school fully prepared for some form of higher education, and for constructive, active citizenship."
The report indicates that, "increasingly policy leaders are concluding quality education options can raise student achievement and improve existing schools." The report is careful to note that recent research on the effectiveness of school choice options remains inconclusive. It does, however, identify a variety of strategies interested governors can use to ensure their state choice policies meet the desired goal of improving student achievement.
"Some choice options disproportionately serve students who have not been successful in the traditional system. In this way, these options fill a critical need--educating students most in need, those who have struggled in the traditional system," the report concludes. "Yet many middle-class families also take advantage of charter schools, virtual schools, interdistrict magnet schools and open-enrollment and dual-enrollment programs. Moreover, many of these education options have been shown to affect the way traditional districts do business, increasing the quality and number of intradistrict choices in the process."
The National Governors Association (NGA) is the collective voice of the nation's governors and one of Washington, D.C.'s most respected public policy organizations. NGA provides governors with services that range from representing states on Capitol Hill and before the administration, to developing policy reports on innovative state programs and hosting networking seminars for state government executive branch officials. The NGA Center for Best Practices focuses on state innovations and best practices on issues that range from education and health to technology, welfare reform and the environment.
The Center for School Change is a program of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The Center works with educators, parents, business people, students, policy-makers and other concerned people throughout the United States to increase student achievement; raise graduation rates; improve student attitudes toward learning, their schools, and their communities; and strengthen communities through building stronger working relationships among educators, parents, students and other community members.