As last week’s School Choice Weekly reported, yet another recent study finds less-than-glowing results from a school voucher program. While test scores of students who used school vouchers were down, public school students who were eligible for a voucher but didn’t use one saw statistically significant positive effects on reading and math scores.
It’s important to note the study is not a randomized, controlled trial, which is the best-quality social science research method we have. Also, as researcher Jay Greene has been discussing lately, reading and math scores are less correlated with positive long-term life outcomes than are other measures such as high school graduation.
RedefinED gives a readable rundown of the study’s salient points, including theories for why we’re seeing such results, especially after years of unbroken positive findings from quality school voucher studies.
Here’s another little-discussed possible reason for the disappointing findings: Private schools may be performing worse than expected with voucher students because private schools often use curriculum and teachers similar to those found in public schools. Private school accreditation agencies often require private school teachers to have teaching degrees and the kinds of training we already know doesn’t increase their teaching ability or content knowledge; and private schools often use the very same textbooks, tests, and lesson plans public schools do, especially in the era of Common Core.
Really, the main differences are often an added chapel (most private schools are religious), having to pay tuition out-of-pocket on top of taxes, higher behavior standards, and a higher proportion of children who come from intact homes. Without the benefit of a superior curriculum and teachers, these very likely may not be enough to improve student achievement either in the short or long term, especially among low-income children, who are significantly more likely to be living in chaotic households, which is a big influence on their academic success.
Until we had school choice programs, private schools often differentiated themselves from their public-school competition with a religious flavor, not academic excellence. With school choice programs, that could change–but only if states and private regulatory cartels release private schools from the same regulatory burden keeping public schools at best mediocre.
SOURCES: JayPGreene.com, RedefinED
IN THIS ISSUE:
- NORTH CAROLINA: Gov. Pat McCrory has signed a bill that would extend the state’s vouchers program to 36,000 children in ten years.
- DC: A new bill would provide school vouchers to every family in Washington, DC, where public schools spend more than $29,000 per child each year yet yield some of the nation’s worst student achievement results.
- DISABILITIES: Sen. Ron Johnson has proposed restricting the U.S. Department of Justice from ignoring the law to harass choice schools using federal disability law.
- FLORIDA: A group of black pastors calls on the state NAACP to end its lawsuit against the state’s voucher program: “The scholarships … give low-income families a means to provide the type of education that affluent families give their children.”
- WISCONSIN: Lawmakers should consider implementing an education savings account program, says a new report.
- HOMESCHOOLING: Why a free society depends on parents’ ability to decide what their children will learn.
- DISCIPLINE: Contrary to widespread belief, charter schools appear to suspend and discipline students less often than traditional schools do, a new data analysis shows.
- PARCC and SBAC: In just five years, 25 states dropped federally funded Common Core tests, notes a new paper that chronicles the tests’ political difficulties.
- LESSON PLANS: Giving teachers access to, reminders to use, and an online forum related to prewritten math plans improved the instruction of average teachers so much the effect was dramatically greater than the highest-performing preschool programs–and a lot cheaper, finds a new study.
- ILLINOIS: The state will give eleventh graders the SAT instead of the PARCC Common Core test, but keep PARCC for grades 3 through 8.
- WYOMING: The state has dropped its affiliation with national Common Core tests and will continue constructing its own.
- NEVADA: In the state’s second-largest school district, the number of testing opt-outs increased 58 percent this spring despite district pressure on parents to keep their kids testing. Meanwhile, new federal regulations would punish schools where large percentages of parents opted their children out of tests.
- COLLEGE EXAMS: Students can now take the Classic Learning Test as an alternative to the ACT and SAT that emphasizes classic literature and traditional mathematics–it’s also Common Core-free. And a new survey shows high school GPA is better at predicting how well a young person will do in college than his or her ACT or SAT scores.
- TRANSGENDER: Ten more states are joining a lawsuit against the federal government’s rewrite of Title IX to require schools to put transgender students into their preferred sports teams, showers, and locker rooms. That brings to 23 the total number of states suing.
- DISCIPLINE: The U.S. Supreme Court’s penchant for favoring race-based discrimination will likely hurt K–12 students because the Obama administration has required the nation’s schools to adopt new, race-based discipline policies.
- PRESCHOOL: The Obama administration has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars into expanding government preschool yet has no plans to measure whether these programs are effective. Research indicates they can’t possibly be, says a researcher.
- CALIFORNIA: Compared to last year, more teachers this year are in Los Angeles “rubber rooms“–places teachers are paid to do nothing while cases against them proceed.
- NEVADA: More than half the teachers in the nation’s fifth-largest school district were absent from their classrooms for 10 days or more in 2013–14.
- CONNECTICUT: A new law requires school districts to inform parents of any new contracts they’ve signed that deal with student data, and for those contacts to include some security protocols.
- FLORIDA: A group of parents is trying to crowdfund a lawsuit against the state’s third-grade retention law that requires kids to take a test or be held back.
- TECH: Teachers should ban screens from classrooms until and unless we’ve learned how to use them in ways that do not overall distract from student learning, argues a psychology professor.