Debate over Florida’s voucher program appears to have shifted from the Capitol grounds in Tallahassee to the halls of academe.
Two Rutgers University scholars are disputing some of the conclusions of a recent study indicating that students in schools facing the threat of vouchers had made greater gains on state tests than those in other low-performing schools.
In the study released last month, author Jay P. Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York City, concluded that “an accountability system with vouchers as the sanction for repeated failures really motivates students to improve.” (“Study Finds ‘Voucher Effect’ in Fla. Test Gains,” Feb. 21, 2001.)
But in a recent critique of Mr. Greene’s study published in a scholarly journal, the Education Policy Analysis Archives, two professors from Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J., assert that “it is simply not clear whether or not the threat of vouchers is having a positive impact on student test scores.”
Gregory Camilli, a professor in the department of educational psychology at Rutgers, who was a co-author of the critique, said that some of the methods Mr. Greene used to analyze the Florida data were questionable, including his decision to lump together test scores from various grade levels rather than analyze them separately.
“It’s been claimed elsewhere that the effect of the Florida program has been proven,” Mr. Camilli said. “In our minds, there still remains work to be done.” He wrote the critique with Katrina E. Bulkley, an assistant professor in Rutgers’ department of educational theory, policy, and administration.
Mr. Greene posted a formal reply on the Manhattan Institute’s site on the World Wide Web at www.manhattaninstitute.org. In the reply, Mr. Greene defended his study and called the critique “almost a textbook for how to do a hatchet job on positive results that one wishes to make go away.”
—Jessica L. Sandham
A version of this article appeared in the March 21, 2001 edition of Education Week