Results of a School Voucher Experiment: The Case of Washington, D.C. after Two Years

Patrick J. Wolf, Paul E. Peterson and Martin R. West
August 2001

One of the many questionable arguments made against school vouchers is that public schools produce better and more open-minded citizens than private schools. A new study by Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance and Georgetown's Public Policy Institute reveals that low-income District of Columbia students attending private schools with the help of vouchers are more politically tolerant than their peers in public schools. According to lead author Patrick Wolf, this remarkable finding cannot be attributed to students' backgrounds, which were similar for all who were surveyed. (The comparison groups were assigned by lottery.) Students were asked, for example, if they would allow members of groups they found objectionable to live in their neighborhood, give a speech, or run for president. In all instances, more private than public school students said yes. The study also examined parent satisfaction with their children's schools. Here, too, private schools are doing a better job: 81% percent of parents gave their child's private school an "A" or a "B," compared to 60% of public school parents. Other subjects covered in the survey include school discipline, homework and satisfaction with teachers. Add these results to earlier research showing that D.C.'s African-American voucher students achieve at higher academic levels than their public school peers, and it would seem that the arguments against school choice grow ever shakier. To read the new study, surf to http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/pepg and click on "Research Papers."

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