Newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who’s committed to school choice, launches an era of market-oriented education policies at a time when a wave of new research suggests that school vouchers may harm student achievement, the New York Times reports.
Several research groups released major studies over the past 18 months that compared the standardized state test scores of voucher students to similar public school students.
In late 2015, an examination of test scores from Indiana’s massive school choice program found that voucher students, who transferred to private schools, had significant achievement decreases in math and no reading score improvements.
A major study of Louisiana’s voucher program, released in February 2016, found negative test score results in both reading and math. The students in the voucher program were predominantly African-American children from low-income families who transferred from low-performing public schools to private schools.
In June 2016, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, conducted a voucher study, which the pro-voucher Walton Family Foundation financed. It looked at Ohio students who used vouchers to enroll in private schools and found that they scored lower on standardized tests than similar public school students.
Researchers and policymakers are scrambling to explain these puzzling findings. The conventional wisdom has always been that private school education is far superior to public school.
According to The Times, the Brookings Institution’s Mark Dynarski concluded that the standards, testing and accountability movement of No Child Left Behind was effective at improving test scores in public schools. Others conclude that voucher students typically transfer to low-performing private schools because the top private schools normally do not accept voucher students.
There’s another school of thought that says standardized test scores are not the best measure of student achievement. They point to graduation rate and college enrollment as better measures of academic achievement.
Those who question the research also point out that nonprofit public charter schools, which are accountable to state regulators, tend to achieve better test results than many of the lower-performing private schools used some of the studies.
SOURCE: New York Times