When the Wall Street Journal blessed 2011 as
the Year of School Choice, few advocates for public and private school options
passed up the chance to celebrate the benediction. But the American Legislative
Exchange Council knows that rhapsody will take the education reformer only so
far. ALEC’s latest annual report card on American K-12 education,
released this week, doubles as guidebook for the reformer who prefers “broad,
rather than incremental, reform,” as authors Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips write.
It’s a brazen assignment, but the Journal was right. It’s been a brazen
Moves to enhance tenure reform, merit pay, and transparency
in public school performance all receive praise from ALEC, but it’s the
“roaring comeback of parental choice” that signals the promise for academic
gains. When Ladner and Lips note that low-income students in Washington, D.C.,
have made outsized leaps on the fourth- and eighth-grade NAEP reading and math
exams, they point to an expanded public and private school market, combined
with an audacious array of policy changes that...