Book Reviews

The Education Gap

by William G. Howell and Paul Peterson

Reviewed by William J. Leary
Professor, Ross College of Education, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.

The authors of The Education Gap deserve credit for announcing up front they have written this work from a “personal point of view.”

William G. Howell, assistant professor of government at Harvard; Paul Peterson, professor of government at Harvard; Patrick Wolf, assistant professor at Georgetown; and David Campbell, a fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton based their work on a three-year study of school choice and vouchers in three cities—New York City, Dayton, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.

The authors have been diligent in their data gathering to advocate their position in support of school choice and vouchers. This reviewer counted 52 tables and figures in the main text and six additional tables in the appendices.

The researchers appropriately point out the obvious: Middle-class families have enjoyed school choice for years because they can move to another community with higher-performing or better-funded schools.

The Education Gap reports that school choice had the greatest impact on achievement gains of African American students, while the economically disadvantaged in all ethnic categories believe school choice provides an improved “educational climate” for the students.

One notable finding in the evaluation of vouchers was that the test scores of African American students in New York City’s privately funded programs were higher than the comparable test scores of students in public schools. The researchers found less certain results in the Washington, D.C., study, possibly because of the large number of charter schools in that city.

Administrators who read this book will be impressed by the amount of data cited by the authors to support their viewpoint. Whether they agree with that viewpoint is another matter.

(The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools, by William G. Howell and Paul Peterson with Patrick J. Wolf and David E. Campbell, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 2002, 275 pp., $28.95 hardcover)