Even though some well-known folks in Alabama refuse to admit it, here comes another report telling us that vouchers do not work.
This time education researchers Christoper Lubienski at Indiana University and Sara Theule Lubienski at the University of Illinois, authors of Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools report in Education Week that evidcence continues to mount that vouchers are not the silver bullet some claim them to be, especially U. S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
(In Alabama we should add the Business Council of Alabama, the Business Education Alliance, Bob Riley, Billy Canary, Rep. Terri Collins, Senator Del March and the Alabama Federation for Children to the list.)
“While vouchers appear to be enjoying a higher profile with Betsy DeVos as the U.S. secretary of education, the research on outcomes from these programs has taken a dramatic turn, one at odds with the direction DeVos and other policymakers are pursuing.” say the Lubienskis.
“In April, the Institute of Education Sciences released a rigorous study showing that the congressionally mandated Opportunity Scholarship Program in the nation’s capital caused significant negative effects on student learning. Students who used vouchers through the program to attend private schools in Washington experienced a 7-percentile-point decline in mathematics and an almost 5-percentile-point decline in reading compared with students who applied to, but were randomly rejected from, the program.
Vouchers remain a favored program, however, for Secretary DeVos and other school choice enthusiasts. How are they dealing with the results from these new studies? Rather than addressing this research, DeVos continues to defend the $250 million voucher-grant program in President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget. But it’s been even more fascinating to watch professional voucher advocates, who have spent their careers arguing that their studies of voucher-program test scores trump all other approaches to measuring the impact of vouchers, now twist themselves into knots to belittle the importance of test scores.
Perhaps a likelier explanation for these poor results has to do with the actual students and schools themselves, including how students were grouped in private and public schools. Prior to the recent batch of research that has cast doubt on vouchers, studies lauding vouchers tended to be based on local and more targeted programs involving relatively small, nonrepresentative sets of students and schools. Yet, overall, private schools are actually no more effective, and often less so, than public schools. Indeed, our own research indicates that any apparent advantages for students in private schools are actually more a reflection of the fact that private schools do a better job of attracting—not producing—high-scoring students.
For our book, The Public School Advantage, we examined two nationally representative data sets to determine whether private schools really offer superior educational programs and outcomes, or whether higher test scores in private schools are simply a reflection of the fact that they serve more advantaged students. Those analyses revealed that, after accounting for differences in demographics, public schools are more effective, particularly in teaching mathematics.
There is a disturbing disconnect between the predictable, negative effects that vouchers are having on students, and the continued enthusiasm policymakers show for these programs despite the growing consensus that they are causing harm. Do we, as parents, taxpayers, and voters, want to fund programs that elevate choice, but lead to detrimental outcomes for children? Is choice a means or an end? Do we want choice for its own sake, or do we want it to improve achievement for all children?”
The infamous Alabama Accountability Act is a voucher program. Though technically the money being spent for schoolarships for private schools are not state dollars since they were diverted before they reached state coffers, the money being spent is money that would have gone to public schools if this law had not been inacted.
Just another case of “if it looks like a duck……….”