More Mixed Voucher Results in Ohio

Published July 20, 2016

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.



School Choice Roundup

Common Core and Curriculum Watch

  • 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.

Education Today

  • 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.