Should Voucher Students Take State Tests?

Published May 1, 2003

Many states considering vouchers are also debating whether private schools that accept vouchers should be required to administer state tests.

One of the unintended consequences of the annual testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act has been to intensify calls from public school educators for similar testing of voucher students. If parents are given public funds, the argument goes, then their children should be required to take the same tests as students in public schools.

Those who advocate the testing of voucher students claim voucher schools will be unaccountable for their performance if such tests are not administered. However, in a recent op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Jay P. Greene and research associate Marcus A. Winters argue it would be a mistake to force private schools to administer state examinations. Doing so would force the schools to change their curriculum and make them less meaningful and less distinct alternatives to the public schools.

“Not all children learn in the same way and not all families share the same philosophy of education,” note the two researchers. “Allowing a diversity of approaches is precisely one of the most important benefits of having alternatives to public schools available through voucher programs.”

Greene and Winters also point out voucher schools already are accountable for their performance–to parents, rather than to an education bureaucracy. Parents who use vouchers have a free choice of schools and may choose another school if they are dissatisfied with the performance of their child’s current school.

In addition, the vast majority of private schools participating in one of Florida’s largest voucher programs–the Corporate Tax Credit Program–already administer nationally respected standardized tests.

For more information …

The article by Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters, “Forcing the FCAT on Voucher Schools is a Bad Idea,” was published in The Tallahassee Democrat on March 31, 2003. It is available online at