Study: Voucher Students Perform Same as Public School PeersCLEVELAND
Students in the Cleveland voucher program performed on the same level as their public school peers, according to the final part of a five-year Indiana University study.
After tracking the test scores of 6,000 students from kindergarten through fourth grade, the researchers found virtually no difference in performance. The results were statistically adjusted to account for lower test scores of low-income and minority children, because the voucher group had a greater proportion of White and affluent children.
“After you adjust for minority status, there’s no difference,” said the report’s chief author, Kim Metcalf.
The study, commissioned by the Ohio Department of Education, also reported high parent satisfaction with the program, and a desire of poor parents to give their children the same opportunities that more affluent families have.
“It seems to reflect a desire to help their children develop ways of interacting, behaving and thinking that will help them to be successful, productive and self-sufficient adults,” Metcalf said.
Vouchers provide public money for students to attend private schools. Last year, the Cleveland program awarded vouchers worth up to $3,000 to nearly 5,100 students who attend mostly Catholic schools. The Cleveland voucher program is supported by money from the city school district’s disadvantaged pupil fund.
The study shows that voucher proponents failed to live up to promises of delivering a better education by taking children out of public schools, said Marc Egan of the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va. “They’re nothing but a diversion from really improving public schools,” he said.
Students who came to the program from public schools had the same income and ethnic characteristics as the entire public school population, the study said, but private school students who received scholarships were more likely to be White and affluent.
The program seems to do well offering scholarships, the report said, “but it may not be completely effective in attracting and retaining students from the very low-income, African American families that it originally targeted.”
The scholarships are first awarded to the lowest-income families, but “not all those families choose to use the vouchers, for whatever reason,” Education Department spokeswoman Dorothea Howe said. They then are opened up to progressively higher income groups, so that about 25 percent of voucher students come from families making at least double poverty-level income.
Parents interviewed by researchers said vouchers enabled them to send their children to what they believed were safer schools that provided a strong moral grounding lacking in public school systems.
The study found little variation in the class sizes and teacher experience that voucher students and public school students encountered. It also found that White and Latino children were better represented in the voucher program than Black students.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year found Cleveland’s program constitutional. State legislatures across the nation are debating whether to set up their own voucher options. The U.S. House of Representatives last month gave final approval to legislation for taxpayer-funded vouchers for students in the District of Columbia (see Black Issues, Jan. 1). — Associated Press
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