School Choice & Charters What the Research Says

What Happened to Students Left Behind as Florida Expanded Its Voucher Program?

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 03, 2020 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The nation’s largest tax-credit scholarship program doesn’t seem to have hurt the academics of students who remain in public schools, a new study shows.

Those students who stayed in public schools during the expansion of Florida’s tax-credit-funded private school vouchers program—the nation’s largest, with more than 100,000 students participating—saw improvements in their reading- and math-test scores, and had fewer suspensions and absences on average, concludes the study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The most likely explanation for the gains, the study says, appears to confirm one of the arguments made by private school choice boosters: The competitive pressure that comes from students having a lot of school choices led public schools to improve their offerings. But the study was not designed to peer inside the “black box” of schools to determine precisely what happened.

Researchers from Emory University; the University of California, Davis; and Northwestern University drew on a sample of more than 1 million Florida students, merging their birth records with test-score data from grades 3-8 from the 2002-03 through the 2016-17 school years. Students’ suspensions and absences were tracked through 2011-12.

Student outcomes were analyzed against different measures of school competition, such as how many private schools with the same grade levels were nearby or the proportion of students served in private schools. The findings showed students attending schools in more-competitive areas seeing greater increases in reading- and math-test scores and decreased suspensions and absences.

The researchers tried to rule out alternative explanations for the results, such as smaller classes in the original schools or lower achievement among the exiting students. They also warned that Florida’s program has some unique features: Not all private school choice programs may yield the same effects.

A version of this article appeared in the March 04, 2020 edition of Education Week as What Happened to Students Left Behind as Florida Expanded Its Voucher Program?

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
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

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

School Choice & Charters Bloomberg Launches $750 Million Fund to Grow Charter Schools Amid 'Broken' K-12 System
Former New York City mayor and one-time presidential hopeful Michael R. Bloomberg aims to add 150,000 charter school seats over five years.
5 min read
New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, far left, meeting with senior students at the Bedford Academy High School in New York on Dec. 3, 2013. Bloomberg campaigned on gaining control of the nation's largest public school system. left his mark by championing charter schools, expanding school choice, giving schools letter grades, and replacing scores of struggling institutions with clusters of small schools.
Then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, and former Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, far left, meet with senior students at Bedford Academy High School in New York in 2013.
Bebeto Matthews/AP
School Choice & Charters Opinion The Kind of School Reform That Parents Actually Want
Parents' inclination to focus on solving specific problems rather than system change helps explain the appetite for novel school options.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Opinion What Do Parents Look for When Choosing a School?
New polling sheds light on what a nationally representative sample of parents had to say on this question this summer.
2 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP