Saturday, April 4, 2009

DC Vouchers Study's Bad News for Privateers of Public Education

The DC school voucher program grades are out, and they closely mirror the recent report examining the Milwaukee voucher system. Can you say little or no improvement. It's interesting to note that nearly 60 percent of voucher recipients either did not use the funding or used only part of it before dropping out. Here's the quick summary:

The DC School Choice Incentive Act of 2003 established the first federally funded private school voucher program in the United States, providing scholarships of up to $7,500 for low-income residents of the District of Columbia to send their children to local participating private schools. The law also mandated that the Department conduct an independent, rigorous impact evaluation of what is now called the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). The study's latest report, Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After Three Years, measures the effects of the Program on student achievement in reading and math, and on student and parent perceptions of school satisfaction and safety.

The evaluation found that the OSP improved reading, but not math, achievement overall and for 5 of 10 subgroups of students examined. The group designated as the highest priority by Congress — students applying from "schools in need of improvement" (SINI) — did not experience achievement impacts. Students offered scholarships did not report being more satisfied or feeling safer than those who were not offered scholarships, however the OSP did have a positive impact on parent satisfaction and perceptions of school safety.

You'll notice parent satisfaction is positive. This is the overarching, feel good message delivered by the pro-voucher crowd. Parents feel like their in control and are likely to think they have made the right decision in their schools choice. The kids are apparently not impressed or fooled. And their grade show that. Sadly, this "voucher diversion" keeps real reform of our public schools on the back burner to some extent, offering up an empty "debate" of the issues.

Just for fun, listen to the Republican politicians calling for a "debate" on just about everything they oppose. They want a debate, filled with opinion and false statements, with fictions imagined and re-enforced over time to obscured and muddy the issue. A villification period if you will.

I'm surprised many in the press or blogosphere haven't notice this over used excuse not to do anything. Remember the line: "We need to debate..."

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