Monday, June 26, 2017

School Vouchers Get 2 New Report Cards : NPR Ed : NPR

School Vouchers Get 2 New Report Cards : NPR Ed : NPR:

School Vouchers Get 2 New Report Cards

It is the education debate of the Trump era. With the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos using policy and the bully pulpit to champion private school vouchers, supporters and critics have tangled over the question:
Do low-income, public school students perform better when they're given a voucher to attend a private school?
For years, the answer from researchers has been a muddle, while a handful of recent studies have clearly shown voucher students backsliding academically. Today, much-anticipated reviews of not one but two of the nation's largest voucher programs add some depth and a few twists to the voucher narrative.
First, Indiana. No one has studied the largest, single statewide program in the nation ... until now. More than 34,000 students are enrolled in Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program. That's 3 percent of students statewide.
In a recent investigation of the program, NPR found some private schools turning away children with disabilities and LGBTQ students, but it was impossible to say, at the time, whether those students who are using vouchers are any better off academically.
Researchers Mark Berends of the University of Notre Dame and R. Joseph Waddington of the University of Kentucky have spent years studying this question, and they've given NPR an early look at their findings.
The backslide
In their unpublished research, which is now being peer-reviewed, Waddington and Berends studied the standardized test scores of low-income, public school students (grades 3-8) who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch and who used a voucher to switch to a private school.
When comparing these students' achievement after the switch to their test scores the previous year, the researchers found:
  • Voucher students experienced "modest annual achievement losses" in math, especially in the first two years after leaving public school.
  • In English/language arts (ELA), voucher students showed no benefits.
  • These results echo what other researchers have found: that voucher students often backslide academically after switching to private school.
When students stick around, they improve
The researchers studied student data for the program's first four years and noticed an interesting pattern. If students stayed in their voucher schools long enough, the backslide stopped and their performance began to improve.
"The longer that a student is enrolled in a private school receiving a voucher, their achievement begins to turn positive in magnitude — to the degree that they're making up ground that they initially lost in their first couple of years in private school," Waddington tells NPR. "It's like they're getting back to where they started" before they enrolled in a private school.

New voucher students fell statistically significantly behind their public school peers in math after switching. On average, those losses continued for two years in private school before students began making up ground. In the fourth year, those who were still enrolled in a voucher school appeared to catch up.
In ELA, voucher students also lost ground but, ultimately, surpassed their public School Vouchers Get 2 New Report Cards : NPR Ed : NPR:

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