- To: <email@example.com>, "susan ohanian" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: DC vouchers
- From: "gerald bracey" <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 09:45:24 -0400
The Washington Post appears to be campaigning for vouchers. On Sunday, it contained no fewer than 4 pro-voucher pieces. Several editorials have favored voucher, as did a Raspberry op-ed. They did run two articles opposing vouchers, but for ideological reasons--they send public tax dollars to the Catholic church. The Post also ran an article on Milwaukee calling the voucher picture there "mixed."
I have tried four different ways to get the info that follows into print. If you look at the evaluations of vouchers in various cities you find that they don't work. No one seems interested in data.
The Sunday Outlook editor said the piece was well written, but also said that his four articles on Sunday were enough on vouchers.
I've written the Post's ombudman to complain about the one-sided coverage. It proably won't matter.
SCHOOL VOUCHERS: AN INEFFECTUAL EDUCATION REFORM
Gerald W. Bracey
Gerald W. Bracey is an Associate Professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and an
Associate of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Given the Post's recent barrage of pro-voucher editorials, op-eds, columns and Sunday Outlook essays (I
can recall at least eight), one might think that vouchers, if not a panacea, are certainly an important tool for
education reform. They are not. The Post's enthusiasm is curious given that the body of research on
voucher effective leads to a single conclusion: Vouchers do not work. As an educational reform, they are
ineffectual. Indeed, in one study, voucher students did not improve their achievement as much as students
in regular public schools.
Among five well-conducted studies, the lone positive outcome for vouchers was seen in the case of
mathematics in Milwaukee. Several researchers have concluded that voucher students in Milwaukee
gained more than did public school students in mathematics--but not in reading. And vouchers might well
not have been responsible for the gains in math. Cecilia Rouse of Princeton University observed that
Milwaukee students using vouchers attended schools with small classes. Rouse that small classes more
likely to be the source of the improvement than vouchers because she also found that public school students
in small classes outgained the voucher students.
In New York City, vouchers apparently produced gains in both reading and math for African American
students, but not for other ethnic groups, a curious outcome in itself. However, the operative word turned
out to be "apparently." Even in the original research, the gains for black kids were limited to one grade,
another startlingly curious outcome. The gains in the sixth grade were sufficiently large to render
significant the collective average score of grades 3, 4, 5, and 6.
However, it was discovered that the original research had omitted over 40 percent of the students for no
good reason. When these students were added to the research, the results became insignificant even for
African Americans, an outcome revealed by New York Times reporter Michael Winerip on May 7, 2003.
For other ethnicities, if vouchers had any effect at all it might well have been negative.
The nonpartisan General Accounting Office reviewed voucher studies from Washington, D. C. and Dayton,
Ohio. The GAO noted that African American students in Washington had shown gains in the second year
of the study but that these gains vanished in the third and final year. About Dayton, the GAO researchers
wrote, "Voucher users in Dayton showed no significant improvements in reading or math test scores."
Curiously, no one has seemed interested in the results of Cleveland's voucher program. After vouchers had
been in place for two years, a group of Indiana University researchers reported that the results were
inconclusive. By the end of third grade, though, the researchers found a clear pattern. Students attending
public schools had started first grade well behind the voucher students: 14 points in reading, 11 points in
language arts and 9 points in math. At the end of third grade, they had narrowed the reading gap from 14
points to 3, and the language arts gap from 11 points to 5. In math, the public schoolers had actually
overtaken the voucher students and led them by two points. Cleveland's vouchers might pass First
Amendment muster, but they depress the achievement of students who use them.
Thus results from studies in five cities all lead to the same conclusion: as an education reform, school
vouchers do not work. Together, the programs and evaluations studies cover more than a decade. A
rational person might think it is time to try something else. Indeed, considering the results from Cleveland,
a rational person might say that President Bush, and the Post and the rest of the voucher touters, rather than
wanting to offer vouchers to DC students, wants to inflict vouchers on them. The question would have to
be, "Why?" The answer could only be framed in terms of ideology and politics. It certainly could not be
because vouchers improve education.
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