Research shows

Scores lower for students with vouchers

Students in the nation’s only federally funded school voucher program perform worse on standardized math and reading tests when compared with their public school peers, a new rigorous study from the research arm of the U.S. Education Department has found as President Trump seeks to pour billions of dollars into expanding private school vouchers nationwide.

In 2011, the U.S. Congress created a voucher program providing scholarships to Washington, D.C., students from low-income families in amounts up to $12,679 for tuition at a private high school and $8,452 for tuition at a private elementary or middle school. Of the more than 1,770 students who applied to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, 995 received vouchers and 776 did not and attended public schools. The study compared the progress of both groups of students from spring of 2012 to 2014.

Researchers from the Institute of Education Sciences found that the D.C. voucher students scored 7.3 percentage points lower on average in math after one year in the program compared with the test scores of the students who applied for a voucher through a citywide lottery but did not receive one. For voucher students in kindergarten through 5th grade, reading scores were also significantly lower. For older voucher students, there was no significant difference in reading scores.

For voucher students coming from a low-performing public school, the researchers found attending a private school had no effect on achievement; however, for voucher students coming from a higher-performing school, the students’ scores were 14.6 points lower in reading and 18.3 points lower in math than the scores of the students who did not participate in the program.

Survey data revealed no differences in parents’ overall satisfaction with their children’s schools; however, parents of voucher students were more likely to feel that their children’s school was safe.

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