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When Schools Compete: A Cautionary Tale Paperback – March 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


"Edward B. Fiske and... Helen F. Ladd have put together a detailed quantitative and qualitative analysis... (Included as Notable Book of 2000)" —Rebecca Jones, Senior Editor of ASBJ, American School Board Journal, 1/3/2001

"Their book should be this summer's required reading for every education policy maker in the United States." —Dorothy Shipps, Teachers College, Teachers College Record, 4/3/2001

"When Schools Compete: a Cautionary Tale (Brookings Institution Press), by Edward Fiske and Helen Ladd, warns that competition doesn't always produce good results for minorities. New Zealand's 10-year experiment with something like a national system of c" —Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, 4/3/2001

"Parental choice and competition among schools have led to an increase in ethnic polarisation, and a wider gap between poor and rich schools, according to two American education experts." —New Zealand Press Association, Waikato Times (Hamilton)

"[When Schools Compete] is first rate in almost every respect: lucidly written, readily accessible, rigorously argued, systematic in its coverage, empirically well grounded, eminently balanced in its treatment of the relevant issues, and full of fascinatin" —Jonathan Boston, New Zealand Education Review

"Fiske, a long-term former education editor at The New York Times, and Ladd, a professor of economics and public policy at Duke University, lay out admirably the reforms in New Zealand." —Madelyn Holmes, Basic Education

"PARENTAL choice and competition among schools have led to an increase in ethnic polarisation, and a wider gap between poor and rich schools, according to two American education experts. Former New York Times education editor Edward Fiske and Duke Univ" — The Dominion (Wellington)

"When School's Compete: A Cautionary Tale said polarisation was the most negative result of the reforms, which were introduced in 1989 and gave schools autonomy and parents the right to choose their children's schools." —Alexander Miriyana, The Sunday Star-Times (Auckland)

"During their five months in New Zealand in 1998, Ladd and Fiske visited nearly 50 schools, analyzed data from the Ministry of Education and other sources and interviewed teachers, principals, parents, government officials and other policy makers.... Du" —Samantha Peterson, The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC)

"Those pondering the effect of the growing school-choice movement in America should look at New Zealand, [When Schools Compete] says. That country's experience suggests that opening enrollment to all public schools and providing vouchers for private school" —Jay Matthews, The Washington Post

"[Fiske and Ladd] offer a series of yellow lights for Americans and others interested in hot educational issues like school choice and charter schools." —Joe Williams, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"It is a rare pleasure to find a book that carefully examines the practices of another country with regard to a policy with which we are still experimenting." —Jennifer L. Hochschild, Harvard University, Education Matters, 7/1/2001

"This book is a pleasure to read. It effectively combines textured examples with common-sense empirical analysis to provide a relatively balanced description of the evolution and progress of one country's experience with fundamental educational reform. It is a welcome addition to the heated school choice debate." —C.E. Rouse, Princeton University, Economics of Education Review, no. 21, 2002

About the Author

Edward B. Fiske, an educational consultant and writer, is the author of the annual Fiske Guide to Colleges. He served as education editor of the New York Times from 1974 to 1991. Helen F. Ladd is Edgar Thompson Professor of Public Policy Studies and professor of economics at Duke University's Sanford Institute of Public Policy.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815728352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815728351
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,101,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Thoms on February 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book has no credibility at all. I am a New Zealander and have had kids at New Zealand schools through the nineties and they are currently still in New Zealand schools. New Zealand has never had a voucher system. New Zealand schools have never had complete operational autonomy and most schools had attendance zones. A minority of schools had `bulk funding', ie they were funded a set amount per child, depending on the number of children on their role, on a given day in the year. The authors may have confused this with a voucher system but a voucher system is very different to bulk funding, and most schools were not bulk funded. Intelligent discussion on competition between schools is required but these authors have taken some far away country then made up a story to fit their political agenda.
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Format: Paperback
As review of New Zealand's important public school choice program, the Fiske-Ladd book is a must-read, and indeed a "cautionary tale." Unfortunately, Fiske and Ladd squandered an opportunity to make an even larger contribution to discussions of public school choice by imagining that competition arises when families can choose which government-owned and operated facility to enroll their children in. They spin their facts into an imaginary tale even though their thorough research and meticulous reporting makes it quite clear that none of the conditions that prevail in a market exist in New Zealand's school system. There are no prices or profits. Unpopular schools are not closed or reconstituted into clones of the over-crowded, popular schools. The government won't expand or duplicate popular schools while unpopular schools have unused capacity. Instead the New Zealand central government has reacted to the waiting lists at some of the popular schools by re-imposing attendance areas on a limited basis. It means they force some families to enroll their children in a school they had hoped to escape. Again, unlike a market, parents' enrollment choices are not the only determinant of each school's share of government funding. That further mutes the limited rivalry for students possible within a government-controlled system. New Zealand schools cannot differentiate themselves to nearly the extent that independently owned schools would do in a true market system. The central government mandates a core curriculum, and political pressures limit remaining opportunities to specialize. The effects of public school choice we are supposed to be cautious about are not the result of competition, but, instead, are the result of its absence.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Few issues in public education are guaranteed to provoke the kind of emotional response as vouchers. Yet despite the fervent arguments made by both sides in the debate, no hard evidence was available to judge the validity of their claims. That has all changed with the publication of "When Schools Compete" by Edward B. Fiske and Helen F. Ladd.
The authors present a probing and comprehensive report of New Zealand's experiment with vouchers, which stands as the definitive study of the subject. It's a compelling story, with far-reaching implications for this country. Fiske and Ladd make the events that took place in that faraway land come alive through a combination of exhaustive research and brisk writing.
In the early 1990s, New Zealand granted all public schools complete operational autonomy and abolished attendance zones. Parents were free to choose any school, including parochial schools. Vouchers followed students to their school of choice. In one fell swoop, the government created the kind of educational free marketplace that supporters assert will improve schools.
What happened,however,was contrary to expectations. The best schools quickly filled up. Hard-to-teach students, disproportionately poor and minority, were turned away and were effectively forced to return to their schools of origin. These schools became significantly more polarized along ethnic and socioeconomic lines than before. Realizing that its grand experiment was not working, New Zealand began to pull back in the late 1990s. The country is still trying to recover from the fiasco it created.
While New Zealand is not the U.S., it shares many values, customs and traditions, including a common language.
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