The book explains why we desperately need an “Open Education Industry.” It clearly defines the term, and the confusion about what can/should be done to improve schooling outcomes, and why over 30 years of efforts to improve schooling outcomes has left all 51 US school systems far short of what is needed to engage all schoolchildren in high value instruction. Because of past education failures, especially poor basic literacy in economic systems, many influential academics and activists have asserted the presence of adequate market forces where key elements of high-performing markets are absent, and have become pre-occupied with discussion of, and development of, devastating inappropriate generalizations about findings from studies of narrowly-targeted, restriction-laden expansions of access to alternatives to traditional public schools. The book compares those to transformational school choice expansions, and describes key steps towards the inertia that threatens the future or America as a prosperous and free republic.
John Merrifield, Professor of Economics (35 years), Emeritus now heads the new think tank, the Institute for Objective Policy Assessment. He published 55 journal articles, and several books including the critically acclaimed The School Choice Wars (2001).
Foreword by Terry Moe
Preface: Still a ‘Nation at Risk’
Memorial to Seymour Sarason
Part I: Key Underlying Factors
Part II: Issues in the Debate Over Parental Choice Expansion
14. Outlook and Political Strategy
Unproductive School Choice Debates is an important and well-timed analysis of how to create an educational system in the United States that leads to optimal education for all children. It’s discussion of the confusion regarding educational choice terminology and interpretation of research findings provide a road map for those who engage in the debate over how to move from a largely failed educational system to one that is truly transformational in improving our children’s education.
Merrifield and Gray provide a real service to the school policy debates. They extensively document the way political forces shape the language of school choice -- and by implication the way school decisions are made. In the post-COVID world, issues of parental options and richer arrays of schools assume a sudden relevance. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. This book helps to guide clearer thinking about options and potential improvements.
John Merrifield’s ability and willingness to identify and challenge what he calls weak, perhaps heroic assumptions; to go against the supposed conventional wisdom is incredible.
The world desperately needs a school system reform movement, and Merrifield’s work leads the way on that. His unique perspectives provide a basis to escape unproductive reform strategies, and generate evidence to support new approaches.
Merrifield and Gray offer a disruptive solution to the failures of US K-12 education. Traditional Public Schools and School Choice options, alike, have proven to be ineffective in addressing educational ills – especially for underserved poor and minority students. They demonstrate how an “Open Education Industry” transcends school choice options such as public charter, vouchers, and private schools by creating a niche for decentralized planning. It is the authors’ thesis that an ”Open Education Industry” – based on economic principles – has the greatest potential to positively impact education inequity, academic under achievement, and social acrimony. For those of us looking for real debate about school choice and true options for education reform, Unproductive School Choice Debates, is a must read!
John Merrifield knows more about school choice than anyone else.