Estimates using student assignment lotteries show large and significant test score gains for charter lottery winners in middle and high school. In contrast, lottery-based estimates for pilot schools are small and mostly insignificant.
“What’s a pilot school?” you say?
These schools have some of the independence of charter schools, but operate within the school district, face little risk of closure, and are covered by many of same collective bargaining provisions [as opposed to charter schools] as traditional public schools.
This is interesting not only because it highly recommends charter schools, but also perhaps points to the exact reasons why. Correlation is of course not causation, but it seems to be that when schools have no risk of closure, they operate less efficiently — which of course also fits rather well into the basic conception that people who have no penalty for failure tend to fail rather often.
This also points to why, even though I’m pretty libertarian, I don’t necessarily believe we need to abolish state funded schools — this just points to ways in which we could improve the current situation. Not all things that are provided by the government need to be physically administrated by the government — we have the state provide food for the poor, but we don’t actually have government workers tilling the fields. And so it can be with schools.
But I think we can all agree on the concept that if an individual or organization has no penalties for failing to perform their job, that job will rarely get completed satisfactorily.