Monday, October 17, 2011

Why Separate Schools are Out Performing Public Boards

Published in the Globe and Mail
October 12, 2011

The article makes the claim that, "the Ontario education system has set up a remarkably clean and ongoing experiment in the effects of school choice", and argues that, “…competitive pressures on separate school administrators [provide] stronger incentives to provide better education outcomes.” This conclusion is not substantiated by the evidence provided for several reasons.

First, the ‘effect’ is very small; much smaller than other effects such as improving the quality of teaching or using better assessment methods. Second, choice in Ontario is not a ‘clean’ experiment; it is primarily based on religion, so the study cannot rule out other factors that might explain the differences, such as values related to religious education that lead parents to Catholic schools. Third, a very large literature on school choice around the world has produced quite equivocal results and certainly has not consistently reported positive effects of school choice. While there may be many reasons to support school choice, it would be an error to support choice as a primary means of improving school quality.


  • Ruth Baumann
  • Ron Canuel, CEO, Canadian Education Association
  • Gerry Connelly, Co Director Education Sustainability Development Academy, York University
  • Lorna Earl, Director, Aporia Consulting Ltd. and President of the International Congress of School Effectiveness and School Improvement
  • Kathleen Gallagher, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
  • Avis Glaze, President, Edu-quest International Inc.
  • Joan M. Green, Former Director of Education, Founding CEO of EQAO, International Consultant on Public Policy and Performance
  • Ben Levin, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
  • Penny Milton, former CEO, Canadian Education Association
  • Karen Mundy, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
  • Jim Slotta, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
  • Charles Ungerleider, Professor Sociology of Education (The University of British Columbia) and Director Research (Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group, LLP.)

Please see the following for further information on School Choice:

Fuller, B., Elmore, R., and Orfield, G. (eds.). (1996). Who chooses, who loses? New York: Teachers College Press.

Gorard, S., & Taylor, C. (2002). Market Forces and Standards in Education: A Preliminary Consideration. British Journal of Sociology in Education, 23(1), 5-18.

Lubienski, Chris. (2001). The relationship of competition and choice to innovation in education markets: A review of research on four cases. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, WA. Retrieved April 2010, from

Whitty, G., Power, S. & Halpin, D. (1998). Devolution and Choice in Education. Buckingham: Open University Press.


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