Achievement Gaps and Vouchers: How Achievement Gaps are Bigger in Minnesota Than Virtually Anyplace Else and Why Vouchers are Essential to Reducing Them

Mitchell B. Pearlstein
Center of the American Experiment
January 2007

This piece is more of an extended op-ed than a report, but it shines nonetheless. Pearlstein (president of Minnesota's Center of the American Experiment) takes readers through the main points of the voucher debate in a methodical, easy-to-digest narrative. He focuses on the Twin Cities and ties his discussion into their school reform efforts. Pearlstein starts by showing that achievement gaps are bigger in the Twin Cities than almost anywhere else and that black students achieve at higher levels in private schools. In the face of such evidence, he suggests, it's a crime that Minnesota should refuse at least to try vouchers. But opposition still festers, and Pearlstein spends the rest of the paper attempting to assuage critics' doubts and fears. He draws on relevant research across the country, including exemplary studies by Jay Greene, William Howell and Paul Peterson, and Caroline Hoxby. One by one, he then repels some common criticisms of vouchers. Then he makes a slight detour to reflect on the importance of what goes on outside of school. Pearlstein claims that, regardless of the quality of schools, achievement gaps will never fully close in the current context of high divorce rates, crime, out-of-wedlock births, and even negative media influence. If there's a little exaggeration here, Pearlstein may be forgiven. He's offered a passionate defense of a policy that's long been denied to the many children who could benefit from it. Read it here.

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