Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Do vouchers make a difference?

The Departement of Education has released their second annual review of the federally funded DC Voucher program. What did they conclude? Well, it depends on whose spin you believe.

The Washington Post:
Students in the D.C. school voucher program, the first federal initiative to spend taxpayer dollars on private school tuition, generally did no better on reading and math tests after two years than public school peers, a U.S. Education Department report said yesterday.
Buried in the story:
Both groups took widely used math and reading tests, such as the Stanford Achievement Test. Overall, there was no statistically significant difference in performance.

But some groups of voucher recipients showed improvement. For instance, among students who earned relatively high reading scores before the program started, those with scholarships progressed faster and are now about two months ahead of their peers.
Education Week:
For the second year in a row, researchers have found little to no overall difference in the standardized-test scores of students who are enrolled in private schools under the District of Columbia’s federally funded voucher program and their peers who attend public schools in the nation’s capital.
Alliance for School Choice press release:
More than 88 percent of students who receive D.C. Opportunity Scholarships posted statistically significant increases in reading achievement, according to a federal study released today. To achieve the same results, other students would have needed about two to four months of additional instruction in reading.

The report, Evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After Two Years, from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, shows that students in several groups are making academic gains as a result of the scholarship program. The most significant growth took place in the important area of reading.
NY Sun:
Students who spent two years in private schools courtesy of the nation's only federally funded voucher program saw no significant benefits overall, though several particular types of children did benefit, a new study has found.

The findings come as the future of the program — a District of Columbia scholarship fund financed by Congress that now helps nearly 2,000 low-income children attend private schools free of charge — is seemingly in jeopardy, with teachers unions and some congressional officials mounting efforts to block reauthorization when its five years expire next year.
So what's the deal? Seems to be that voucher recipients do about the same, maybe a little better than their public school peers. Now, here's some spin on these facts I haven't seen anywhere yet: voucher students get as good, if not better an education than DCPS students, at one third the cost.

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