Education

D.C. Voucher Program Boosts Grad Rates But Not Test Scores

By Debra Viadero — June 23, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A closely watched program that provided scholarships of up to $7,500 for public school students in the nation’s capital to attend private schools spurred more students to graduate from high school but didn’t do much to boost their scores on standardized tests.

That’s according to the final report on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which was released yesterday by the federal Institute of Education Sciences. All eyes have been on this program since it started because it’s the first federally funded, private school voucher program in the United States. President Obama has said he wants to eliminate it, but congressional Republicans and parents continue to lobby for its survival.

The new study tracks educational outcomes over four to five years for 2,300 public school students who applied for the scholarships, which were assigned by lottery. Of that group, 1,387 students were offered a scholarship; the remaining 921 were not. Nearly 300 of the scholarship recipients, however, never used their scholarships at all.

At least four years later, the study found, the lottery winners’ reading and math scores were not statistically different from those of students who failed to nab a golden ticket, leading the researchers to concluded that the program had had “no significant impact” on student achievement. This was also true for lottery winners coming out of schools deemed to be in need of improvement, which was the group that Congress was particularly concerned about when it created the program in 2003.

A brighter picture emerges, though, when you look at the much smaller group of 500 students who made it to 12th grade by the end of the study. Their graduation rates were 12 percentage points higher than those of lottery losers.

If the lottery winners actually used their scholarships, the likelihood of graduating was 28 percent higher.

In the end, this is a very, very small sample, but graduation rates, after all, are where the rubber meets the road, as the U.S. secretary of education has been saying.

An interesting aspect of this final report is that it explores why so many students either didn’t use their scholarships or used them intermittently. The number one reason—cited by more 30 percent of parents—was that the private schools had no room for their kids. The second most-cited reason was that the private schools lacked the special services their kids needed, such as special education. That, too, says a lot.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP