Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How the Nation’s Two Oldest School Voucher Programs Are Working: Part II—Ohio | janresseger

How the Nation’s Two Oldest School Voucher Programs Are Working: Part II—Ohio | janresseger:

How the Nation’s Two Oldest School Voucher Programs Are Working: Part II—Ohio


School voucher programs in Milwaukee and Cleveland are now over twenty-five years old.  Now Wisconsin and Ohio have expanded statewide what began as stand-alone, big-city programs, and last week, local newspapers in Milwaukee and Cleveland examined these programs.  Today’s post will look at Patrick O’Donnell’s recent Plain Dealer report on vouchers in Cleveland and OhioYesterday’s post covered last week’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel‘s report on Wisconsin vouchers.
While Erin Richards’ piece on Wisconsin explores the fiscal problems for a state that has begun to divert state and local tax dollars to pay for the education of students at private schools, Patrick O’Donnell in Cleveland emphasizes the problem of figuring out whether students at religious schools accepting vouchers receive a superior—or even adequate—education: “The school voucher programs that some federal and state officials want to expand have had mixed test results in Ohio that make it unclear how much more students learn than if they had stayed in their local public schools. Ohio’s voucher programs, which give families grants to help pay tuition at private schools, have a low bar to clear to look successful. Neither the state’s main voucher program, EdChoice, nor a Cleveland-only program is competing with high-scoring suburban districts. Both were created to let families avoid schools the state considered to be failing, so they only have to best the lowest-rated schools. But the private schools receiving voucher dollars have had mixed results, even when compared to these ‘failing’ public schools.”
Here is a caution: As O’Donnell compares the schools, he is using Ohio’s school ratings, based primarily on standardized test scores.  Any comprehensive school rating system would consider myriad other factors.  And, of course, test scores, in the aggregate reflect the economic circumstances of families and neighborhoods. (See here and here.)
O’Donnell compares voucher students’ standardized test scores in third and eighth grade and reports that students who have carried vouchers to religious schools score higher in reading and lower in math, “scoring lower—sometimes by a hair, sometimes by a lot—on four of the six state math tests for the same grade. It’s a trend that has held for several years.”
O’Donnell also examines a technical academic paper by David Figlio of the Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research, a study in which Figlio controls for all sorts of factors that may affect scores apart from the quality of the education schools provide: “Figlio found How the Nation’s Two Oldest School Voucher Programs Are Working: Part II—Ohio | janresseger:


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