Top Researchers: Evidence Points to School Voucher Effectiveness
Jay Greene, Russ Whitehurst, Patrick Wolf, and Patrick Stewart Review Data and Perspectives on Voucher Effectiveness at D.C. Event
WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--School voucher programs increase student achievement and satisfy parents, according to four top researchers who spoke out in Washington yesterday to highlight the findings of key school choice studies.
“It would be good if people who oppose vouchers—regardless of the evidence—would say why they really do oppose them”
Considered four of America’s foremost experts on education research, Jay Greene, Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, Patrick Wolf, and Patrick Stewart revealed key data and perspectives yesterday from more than a dozen school choice initiatives.
The discussion was a timely gathering in light of the Congressional debate over the future of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This program—a federally-funded initiative—allows low-income District families to receive a scholarship to attend a participating private school of their parents’ choice.
In all, the researchers indicated that when it comes to school choice, the results have been overwhelmingly favorable—and plentiful.
“There is more research on vouchers than any other education policy,” Green said,” This research meets standards of quality like publication, peer review, and replication.”
In terms of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, studies of the program have been closely monitored and are, according to lead investigator Patrick Wolf, “as rigorous as we could make them.” Wolf investigated the program for two independent reports released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Educational Sciences.
Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, who headed IES until moving to the Brookings Institute earlier this year, vouched for the validity of the D.C. research, calling it “an attempt to compare apples to apples, and carefully.”
In terms of results, Wolf said that the D.C. program shows significant achievement gains among students, as well as extremely high parental satisfaction rates.
Parents of students in the D.C. program, Wolf said, “viewed private schools as safer, more orderly, and more disciplined.” Wolf said that students who were offered vouchers demonstrated 3.7 months of additional learning in reading than their public school peers.
Patrick Stewart, a researcher who conducted extensive evaluations of families in the D.C. program, concurred, saying that the program has also led to “increase involvement by parents because of increased involvement by private schools” to engage them.
Stewart said that a reading of school choice research must include factors that complement student learning, such as feelings of safety. The parents in the D.C. program care about test scores and school success but equally want to “find a safe place for their children.”
Reviewing the overall body of research on school choice programs—18 exist across 10 states and the District of Columbia—Greene said that no studies have demonstrated that school vouchers have a negative impact on student learning, with most studies showing “a higher level of achievement in students.”
“The evidence clearly suggests that voucher programs help kids who participate and also help kids who don’t,” Greene said, referencing the benefits of competition resulting from school choice programs.
Whitehurst cautioned that policymakers should analyze data before making decisions about the future of programs, and that advocates on both sides of the school choice debate should not “cherry-pick” positive or negative aspects of reports to make their cases.
“It would be good if people who oppose vouchers—regardless of the evidence—would say why they really do oppose them,” Whitehurst said, adding that supporters must live by the same credo.