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Choice Is Not Based on Performance Alone

A common argument made against parental choice is that students who attend private, religious or charter schools do not necessarily perform better than their peers in traditional public schools ("Why It's So Hard To Know Whether School Choice Is Working," npr.org, May 21).  I agree with that conclusion.  But I think it misses a larger point: Parents do not base their decision solely on test scores.

Parents take into account other factors.  For example, they choose a school because they like the philosophy, or the location of the school.  Who are we to tell them that they are making the wrong decision?  Academics, in fact, may play a small role in their minds.  I've listened to countless parents who have made this eminently clear. 

The criticism that choice favors only students whose parents are engaged in their education is also true. But I know no parents who are willing to sacrifice the education of their children on the altar of ideology.  In a perfect world, all neighborhood public schools would be so outstanding that few, if any, parents would want to enroll them elsewhere.  That is not reality, nor will it ever be in this country.  Yes, we should try to improve such schools, but I don't blame parents one bit for putting the needs and interests of their kind first and foremost.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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