The School Choice Hoax: Fixing America's Schools

The School Choice Hoax: Fixing America's Schools

The School Choice Hoax: Fixing America's Schools

The School Choice Hoax: Fixing America's Schools


This book argues that the autonomy granted to choice schools has been a counterproductive dead end. Its authors see no proof that freedom has produced the outstanding results that charter school advocates promised. Nor has the competition from charter schools spurred the improvement in public schools that charter advocates predicted. Instead, charter schools and education vouchers promoted competition among schools that should be cooperating. Overburdened public school districts are faced with rivalry from schools that are merely duplicating conventional programs and competing for some students while ignoring others. Since choice schools are not meeting the expectations touted by their advocates, the authors maintain that they should be planned, monitored, and operated by school districts.

The federal government is devoting millions of dollars to charter and voucher programs that currently require parents to abandon regular public schools. The goal of the authors of The School Choice Hoax is to expose the misleading hyperbole that has been driving the school choice movement and to show how charter schools can become more effective and useful to public school districts. Both authors have been following the school choice movement for over a decade. Together they bring to the topic an unusual blend of academic and practical knowledge derived from long, successful careers as a sociologist (Corwin) and former Deputy Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators (Schneider). The authors have formed their conclusions from years of research and analysis and have devoted a great deal of attention to making sensible recommendations designed to make school choice models more useful to public schools. This book will be helpful to parents who are faced with the prospect of making choice work better.

The authors' conclusions have been carefully drawn from, and documented with, current research derived from years of neutral observation. Throughout, the book is packed with observations about school choice that will inform parents, politicians, and other community members about the advantages and disadvantages of choice schools. The authors offer explanations that will help the average citizen understand and appraise overblown claims by advocates. They also provide detailed reviews of other reforms, some of which are already infused in existing choice models.


I was surprised to find this book, The School Choice Hoax: Fixing America's Schools, close to home for me. My own university group has recently opened, and is operating a new small high school of choice under a contract with the local Baltimore public school system. The school is called the Baltimore Talent Development High School. Our experience has turned out to be a practical application of some of the ideas advocated in this book. The district had invited external proposals with the intention of contracting for some new public high schools of choice in high-poverty city locations, where school boundaries were very large or overcrowded, and where the existing schools had very low academic achievement. The district chose the particular new school location to give parents—both those who live close by and others from throughout the city—another choice. However, we were allowed to select the principal and teachers and to implement a comprehensive reform model, including a career academy structure and a new catch-up curriculum.

We are now negotiating with the district for another new partnership to reorganize an existing small high school that is struggling to serve its high-poverty students. These negotiations are leading to a proposal similar to a vision that the authors, Ronald Corwin and Joseph Schneider, advance in this book. They propose in great detail a network of specialized smaller schools (including charter schools) operating throughout a district and open to parental choice from across the city. The authors believe that choice schools should be part of school districts, not independent of them, which is consistent with our situation. The Baltimore school district will set the priority needs and location, but it is also eager to install promising innovations from qualified outsiders, to give parents and stu-

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