Professor's Book Seeks to Illuminate the Facts on School Choice

Patrick J. Wolf
University Relations

Patrick J. Wolf

School choice — as it covers matters such as private school vouchers, public charter schools, open enrollment and homeschooling — continues to be a hot topic in the United States. A University of Arkansas faculty member has edited a new book to review claims and evidence on topics such as these.

Routledge, an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group, recently published School Choice: Separating Fact from Fiction. The editor is Patrick J. Wolf, a Distinguished Professor of Education Policy in the Department of Education Reform of the College of Education and Health Professions. He holds the 21st Century Endowed Chair in School Choice.

The varieties of school choice all regularly appear on policy agendas as ways to improve the educational experience and outcomes for students, parents, and the broader society. Pundits often make claims about the various ways in which parents select schools and thus customize their child's education. Wolf in his book gathers reports to show what claims about school choice are grounded in evidence.

The book was published originally as a peer-reviewed special issue of the Journal of School Choice, Wolf said. He said his most important findings include:

  • Test scores do not consistently define school quality in the minds of parents.
  • The type of school choice and the context in which it takes place influences the effect it has on racial integration in schools.
  • The effects of private school choice on civic outcomes range from neutral to positive.
  • Key school characteristics — including an urban location, extended learning time, consistent behavioral policies and a mission focused on academic success — are correlated with higher test score gains for public charter school students.
  • Emerging evidence on the effects of school choice on non-cognitive student character traits suggests that the impacts tilt negative regarding student attitudes but positive regarding student behaviors, possibly explaining why school choice programs demonstrate consistently positive effects on how far students go in school.

The book also features what is claimed to be the first systematic review of the empirical research regarding homeschooling in the United States.

"This book brings a wealth of scholarly research to bear on vital topics related to all forms of parental school choice," Wolf said. "I'm delighted that the authors moved beyond rhetorical and ideological claims to establish what the facts actually say about what happens when parents choose schools."


Ben Pollock, communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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