Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

May 10, 2013

Release of “Gold Standard Research” Exposes Milwaukee Voucher Program

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 5:02 pm

Recent Research and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

These articles represent peer-reviewed findings based on the same data and conducted by many of the same researchers who conducted the original evaluation covered in the SCDP reports. (School Choice Demonstration Project; the legislatively mandated study of the effectiveness of the school choice program.)Peer-reviewed journals represent the gold standard of scientific findings, and so these findings are of particular interest. These differ from the reports published in the original SCDP reports, which were not subjected to the same scrutiny that academic peer-reviewed articles received. Thus, they represent an updated and more rigorous analysis of the reports produced by the SCDP in recent years.

Following is an abstract from the report:

Few school choice evaluations consider students who leave such programs, and fewer still consider the effects of leaving these programs as policy-relevant outcomes. Using a representative sample of students from the citywide voucher program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we analyze more than 1,000 students who leave the program during a 4-year period. We show that low-performing voucher students tend to move from the voucher sector into lower performing and less effective public schools than the typical public school student attends, whereas high-performing students transfer to better public schools. In general, transferring students realize substantial achievement gains after moving to the public sector; these results are robust to multiple analytical approaches. This evidence has important implications for school choice policy and research.  

·         “The results presented in Figure 1 and Table 6 provide a generally consistent substantive story. Prior to transferring to MPS, students experience a multi-year slide in achievement. After enrolling in the public schools, students exhibit a notable increase in their math and reading scores. The achievement growth occurs most intensely in the 1st year post-transfer but appears to continue into the 2nd year as well. Considered as a whole, the evidence indicates that the results presented in Table 5 are not attributable, at least wholly, to a reversion to the mean after an uncharacteristically poor academic year in the MPCP.” (p.191) 

·         “Our results indicate that students who leave the voucher program and enroll in MPS are disproportionately disadvantaged relative to both their new public school peers and typical voucher students. After leaving the MPCP, low-achieving students tend to enroll in low-performing, less effective public schools, whereas high-achieving students generally attend higher performing, more effective schools in MPS. However, all students exhibit increased levels of achievement in both reading and mathematics after transferring, and the magnitudes of these increases are not negligible; on average, they are in the range of 0.15 to 0.20 standard deviations. Focusing on the average effect, however, masks the fact that the achievement effects of moving from the MPCP to MPS are somewhat larger for low-performing students than for their higher achieving peers” (p. 180)

 To see the research go to:


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