Does School Choice Increase School Quality?
The answer appears to be yes. Researchers affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research have found that the introduction of charter schools in North Carolina also coincided with an increase in test scores in non-charter schools.
In 1996-7, North Carolina had no charter schools. Three years later its 91 charter schools had enrolled 14,899 students, about 1 percent of the state’s total public school enrollment.
Such changes as this are often considered “natural experiments” by economists. Since laboratory experiments are difficult for economics, such events often provide good tests for public policies. In this case, the test to see if increased competition for students resulted in an overall improvement in school quality.
In Does School Choice Increase School Quality? (NBER Working Paper No. 9683), George Holmes, Jeff DeSimone, and Nicholas Rupp use end of year test scores for grades three through eight from North Carolina’s statewide testing program to explore whether the competition provided by charter schools had any effect on the test scores in public schools run by school districts.–bold in the original
Of course, more research is necessary, but it seems that some form of competition does help improve school quality.