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DECEMBER 7, 2023

Report Misfires in Touting School Choice in Rural Communities

An NEPC Review funded by the Great Lakes Center

Key Takeaway: In its push for expanding school choice, the report exaggerates how much Arizona and Texas are alike, fails to consider existing research, and uses simplistic and inaccurate analyses to support its claims.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI (Dcember 7, 2023) - The Heritage Foundation recently published a report that claims increased competition has improved academic achievement in Arizona's rural public schools and that similar policies will be good for rural Texas. However, a review finds several flaws in the report's reasoning and methodology.

Amanda Potterton of the University of Kentucky, Annah Rogers of the University of West Alabama, and Jeanne Powers of Arizona State University reviewed From Surviving to Thriving: K-12 Choice and Opportunity for Rural Texas Students and Teachers. They found that the data provided in the report fails to support its contention that rural Texas would do well to copy Arizona's example.

In its attempt to prove that Arizona should be a model for school choice, the report overstates the similarities between Arizona and Texas, ignores relevant research literature, and presents simplistic and inaccurate analyses to support its claims. For example, it focuses heavily on a variety of reports that support the expansion of school choice, news media stories, and opinion pieces, rather than provide a more balanced picture of school choice via the academic peer-reviewed literature. Further, in some cases, alternative methods of reporting the data suggest different conclusions than those presented in the report. There are also inconsistencies and inaccuracies in how the report uses and interprets some of the data sources.

By addressing a narrow set of possible benefits of school choice, the report also overlooks issues related to fiscal impacts for district schools, segregation, and exclusionary practices for students who require specialized services in schools.

The reviewers conclude that the report is an exercise in advocacy for expanding school choice policies, with minimal usefulness as a guide for policy and practice.

Find the review, by Amanda U. Potterton, Annah Rogers, and Jeanne M. Powers, at:

Find From Surviving to Thriving: K-12 Choice and Opportunity for Rural Texas Students and Teachers, written by Matthew Ladner and Jason Bedrick and published by the Heritage Foundation, at:

NEPC Reviews ( provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high-quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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Michelle Renée Valladares
(720) 505-1958

Amanda U. Potterton
(702) 553-9505