A sample of students at some of Milwaukee’s private schools made gains in reading in 2010-11 that were significantly higher than those of a matched sample of peers in Milwaukee public schools, but math achievement remained the same as in the preceding school year, according to results from a multiyear study tracking students in both sectors.
The new results are the final installment of an examination of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Voucher students’ achievement growth on the state’s annual standardized test was about the same in math over the four years studied, and about the same in reading for three of those four years, the researchers found.
The longitudinal study was conducted by the School Choice Demonstration Project, a research center at the University of Arkansas that was selected by the state of Wisconsin to conduct a long-term study of the voucher program and its effect on Milwaukee.
Rather than looking at scores of all students, the researchers matched a sample of 2,727 voucher students in 3rd through 9th grades in 2006 with an equal number of similar students in district schools. The study used a complex statistical methodology based on students’ test-score growth.
The authors said their findings also suggest exposure to voucher schools marginally increases the likelihood that students graduate from high school, especially on time, and enroll in college.
The latest study also examines special education and estimates that between 7.5 percent and 14.6 percent of the voucher students have disabilities. That’s lower than the 19 percent of special education students in Milwaukee public schools but higher than previous estimates of the disability rate among students enrolled in the voucher schools.
A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 2012 edition of Education Week as School Choice Program Yields Gains in the End