How do schools respond to competition? Not as you might expect.
By Emma Brown
This article appeared in the Washington Post on March 26. Included below is the first few paragraphs. Click the link to read the rest of the story.
The school-choice movement is built on the philosophy that competition forces schools to improve.
But new research on New Orleans – arguably the nation’s most competitive school market — suggests that school leaders are less likely to work on improving academics than to use other tactics in their efforts to attract students.
Of the 30 schools examined in the study, leaders at just 10 — or one-third of the total — said they competed for students by trying to improve their academic programs or operations. Leaders at far more schools — 25 — said they competed by marketing their existing programs, including with signs, billboards, t-shirts, home visits and incentives for parents to refer potential students.
Seventeen school leaders said they added extracurricular or niche programs, such as arts-integration or language immersion programs, in order to distinguish themselves from the competition. And leaders at 10 schools exercised some sort of student recruiting or screening, even though almost all of them were supposed to be open-enrollment schools where such selection practices were not permitted.
“These school leaders do not always respond to competition in the ways that policymakers hope,” said the study’s author, Huriya Jabbar, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
The study was released Thursday morning by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, a partnership that is based at Tulane University and is attempting to inject objective and useful information into what are often pitched debates over education policy. The alliance includes representatives from Louisiana charter schools, Louisiana teachers unions, local school boards and other education organizations, and its funders include the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation.