On the basis of the evidence, we cannot be assured that any of these approaches will by itself fulfill the goal of higher achievement in a cost-efficient manner. However, we note that the newness of the charter school movement makes it difficult to evaluate. Charter schools may well fulfill their proponents' predictions about exerting productive impacts on the rest of the public school system sometime in the future, and indeed preliminary evidence of these impacts is positive in some areas.
In fact, in the committee's view, some of these options are likely to be quite promising for the goal of increasing achievement, especially if they are included as part of a larger education reform strategy that encompasses, for example, clear outcomes-based accountability standards. Additional flexibility at the school level may be crucial as a way to achieve greater achievement, given the absence of a clear and identifiable production function for education that applies to all students. However, that flexibility will be productive in increasing achievement only to the extent that higher achievement is the goal, that schools are somehow held accountable for achievement, and that teachers have the capacity to teach effectively and students the capacity to learn.
Many parents already exercise school choice, through their choice of where to live or by electing to enroll their children in private schools. One problem with the first form of choice is that by bundling the choice of school with the residential choice decision, any tendencies toward residential segregation by income or race will be exacerbated. Another disadvantage to either form of choice is that not all families can exercise it equally. Rather, wealthier families have more options than poorer families as they can more easily move to another location, or alternatively they could send their children to private schools. Moreover, low-income families in big-city school districts have even fewer choices than others, since even if they move to another location within the city they still receive education services from the same district. We return in Chapter 7 to the implications of the constrained choice available to low-income families in large urban areas.
Various strategies have been proposed, and implemented, to expand parental choice and to break the connection between residential location and choice of schools. Historically, the goal of many strategies that provide for more choice within a district, such as for example magnet schools and controlled choice programs, had more to do with reducing racial segregation than with increasing student achievement or making schools more efficient. Newer forms of parental choice include open enrollment schemes that allow children to choose schools in