Voucher kids do better than peers
This letter to the editor appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on November 12.
A recent Dispatch editorial, “Many questions,” stated that advocates of private-school choice “should be able to show that students who go to private schools using vouchers do better than their peers who remain at the public schools they left. So far, no one has collected such data.”
While better data certainly are needed, what we have now can tell us if the kids receiving vouchers are doing better or worse than their peers who stay behind. The limited data available from the Ohio Department of Education allows researchers and others to compare the academic performance of students using an EdChoice voucher to those students who remain in voucher-eligible public school buildings, on a single-year, snapshot basis. (We can’t get at value-added growth or growth over time.)
The results for Ohio’s “Big 8” districts (from which the majority of voucher students hail) are encouraging for school-choice supporters. Overall, the available data show us that a majority of students using vouchers are outperforming their peers in voucher-eligible district schools.
In cities such as Dayton and Youngstown, where public-school performance has languished for years, students who use vouchers outperform the kids from the public schools. Voucher students in Columbus outperform their peers in every subject and grade except one, and in some cases do so by a significant margin.
Eighth-grade voucher students outperform students in the schools they left behind by 31.9 percentage points in reading and 18.3 percentage points in math. These results are an improvement from last year, when Columbus voucher students bested their home schools in only eight tested grades and subjects.
But, are children who receive vouchers doing better academically because of the impact of their new schools on their learning, or are the children doing better because some of the highest performing children are leaving the district schools?
To get at this, Ohio needs a data-rich system of accountability for all publicly funded students that will report not just a snapshot of raw achievement for one year, but rather how schools and students are performing over time.
Only in this fashion can we start to get at questions about which schools work and which don’t.
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