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Data Don't Matter? Academic Research and School Choice

  • Kevin Smith (a1)

School choice has attracted much attention from academic policy analysts. Their data analyses, however, have become entangled in the politics surrounding debates over market-driven reform rather than serving as foundations for utilitarian policy making. High-profile research programs generate an increasing number of empirical studies, which are often valued for how well they fit ideological preferences rather than how useful they may be in offering practical guidance on workable and politically feasible strategies. In this paper I assess what supportable policy message(s) can be extracted from the large research literature on choice and vouchers.Kevin Smith is an associate professor of political science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln ( His most recent book is The Ideology of Education: The Market, the Commonwealth, and America's Schools.

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