Plenty of reasons to celebrate in Michigan
Nearly 6,000 independently organized events are being held across the country to celebrate National School Choice Week. This week is not about one particular form of school choice, but rather about celebrating the fact that parents and students have more educational options than ever before.
Reason School Choice Video
Michigan parents and students have a number of reasons to celebrate. Not only are there more choices, but 2013 brought news that school choice is leading to better outcomes for Michigan students.
Public school choice: Nearly 300 public charter schools are now open in the state, and these schools serve almost 150,000 students — an all-time high. In addition to students attending public charter schools, 100,000 more use Schools of Choice, a program that allows students to attend a conventional school outside of their residential district.
Private school choice: Another 120,000 students attend private school. It is not known how many Michigan students are homeschooled, but anecdotal evidence suggests that homeschooling is growing in popularity.
In total, at least 370,000 Michigan students are using school choice. In other words, one out of every five Michigan students is making use of educational choice to attend a school other than the one determined by his or her home address. And these students appear to be accessing a better education.
Charter school results: In early 2013, Stanford University published a study of Michigan public charter school students and compared their educational outcomes to their virtual peers. The result? Michigan public charter school students are learning more than their peers attending conventional schools — worth two additional months every single year.
Schools of Choice results: In December 2013, the Mackinac Center published a study of Michigan's Schools of Choice program, which allows students to attend a school outside of their resident district. We replicated the analysis first conducted by Michigan State University and found that Michigan students and parents tend to choose districts with higher test scores, lower graduation rates and higher teacher salaries.
Parents should be allowed, as a matter of respect and dignity, to have a say in where their children go to school. But for those concerned that parents might make "bad choices," the recent evidence from Michigan — along with several gold-standard studies of school choice throughout the country — suggests that parents use choice to help their children attend schools that post better results.
That is certainly something to celebrate.