Voucher Students Perform At Lower Level Than Counterparts

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Students in Louisiana's private-school voucher program scored significantly lower than their public school counterparts in math during their first year in the program, according to a new study released Monday.

         The report, released by researchers at Tulane University, noted that the students' math performance improved in their second year, but remained below their counterparts' performance.

         The report said the study's results were limited to grades three through six, though most students enter the program at other grade levels. It also noted that the research does not address whether the results would be the same for students who entered the program the moment they entered school, at the kindergarten level.

         The voucher program provides tuition for some students from low- or moderate-income families who otherwise would attend low-performing public schools. It began as a pilot program in New Orleans and was expanded statewide in 2012 by the Legislature at the behest of then-Gov. Bobby Jindal. More than 7,000 students currently participate.

         Jindal and voucher champions touted the program as a means of making sure students can escape poor public schools. Opponents have long questioned the effectiveness of vouchers and whether they divert badly needed money from public schools.

         The study, released jointly by the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane and the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas, said reading scores also were lower among voucher-school students than those of their public school counterparts, although not as drastically as math scores.

         The study focused on students who originally attended public schools and took state standardized tests in the 2011-2012 school year before entering the voucher program, formally known as the Louisiana Scholarship Program, in the 2012-2013 academic year.

         "Our estimates indicate that an LSP scholarship user who was performing at roughly the 50th percentile at baseline fell 24 percentile points below their control group counterparts," the report said. The gap narrowed to 13 percentile points in math in the second year. There was an eight-point difference in reading the first year but reading scores improved in the second year to a point where they were not significantly different, statistically, from the control group, the report said.

         Monday's report encompassed four studies of the voucher program. Another of the studies said the voucher program showed no effect on students' "non-cognitive" skills, including perseverance for long-term goals and self-esteem.

         A look at how voucher-funded transfers affected racial enrollment concluded that the program improved the racial balance at public schools. It said most of those transferring out of the schools were black.

         "When we combine the largely integrating effects of the program on students' former public schools with its slightly segregating effects on their new private schools, the overall effect of the LSP is to improve the racial integration of Louisiana Schools," the report said.

         Still another study examined whether competition from private schools receiving voucher students resulted in any improvement in public schools. The analysis found that public school performance "was either unaffected or modestly improved."

         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill

 

 

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