Wednesday, May 05, 2010

School Vouchers & School Choice

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran this report:

Ongoing voucher school study shows students on par with MPS peers
By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel

April 7, 2010 11:22 a.m. | The latest results from an ongoing, five-year study that's comparing the performance of students in Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program to that of those in Milwaukee Public Schools finds that the youngsters continue to perform at similar levels.

Those results and more are found in six reports released this morning in Madison by Patrick J. Wolf, a professor of education at the University of Arkansas who heads the School Choice Demonstration Project.

The team of researchers studying Milwaukee's voucher program under the umbrella of the project include Jay P. Greene at the University of Arkansas and John F. Witte at the University of Madison.

Wolf said the new results in the longitudinal study are similar to the results found in March of 2009, the first year after baseline data for the matched groups of students in MPS and MPCP, or voucher, schools was collected in the 2005-'06 school year.

"Levels of student growth in the MPCP are still similar to those for comparable students in MPS," Wolf said. "Less taxpayer dollars are spent on the MPCP vouchers than on educating students in MPS. You're getting similar rates of achievement growth at lower cost with the MPCP."

Well, at least the study says the voucher system is having the same effectiveness at a much lower cost than the traditional public school system.

What also needs to be studied is performance before and after implementation of the voucher program. If performance has improved, that is also justification for the voucher system as competition is leading even public schools to do better. Often opponents of vouchers point to the same results as a justification vouchers aren’t needed as the *same* results are recorded. If performance overall has improved after the voucher system went into effect, that is more telling than a snapshot look at performance of the two groups.

I would hope that vouchers provide competition and that *everyone* improves, not that there be a disparity between voucher and traditional public school students. Isn’t that the goal, to improve education overall?

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