Death and Life of the Great American School System, Diane Ravitch, November, 2011

posted Jan 31, 2012, 7:51 AM by Bill Duncan
Diane Ravitch puts the issue to rest
But Diane Ravitch, the nation's leading historian of American public education and a sharp critic of our public schools, sums it up simply on P. 132 of her recent book, Death and Life of the Great American School System (excerpt attached):

"In sum, twenty years after the initiation of vouchers in l\lilwaukee
and a decade after the program's expansion to include religious
schools, there was no evidence of dramatic improvement for the
neediest students or the public schools they left behind."

Her book provides as much detail behind that summary as anyone could want.  Here's a sample (emphasis added):

P. 129

"By 2009. studies hy different authors came to similar conclusions
about vouchers, suggesting an emerging consensus. Cecelia
E. House of Princeton University and Lisa Barrow of the Federal
Reserve Bank of Chicago published a review of all the existing
studies of vouchers in Milwaukee. Cleveland. and the District of
Columbia. They found that there were "relatively small achievement
gains for students offered educational vouchers. most of which are
not statistically different from zero."
"In 2009. the same research learn released another study that
found no major differences between students in voucher schools
and those in regular public schools. The research group included
the strongly pro-voucher Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas
and John Witte, who was considered a critic of vouchers. The
researchers found "no overall statistically significant differences
between MPCP [voucher] and MPS [Milwaukee Public Schools] student achievement growth in either math or reading one year after
they were carefully matched to each other." Perhaps there would be
different outcome's in the future. but this was not the panacea that
voucher supporters had promised and hoped for.

The first evaluation [of the Washington, D.C. voucher program] in 2008
reported that in the first two years of the program (2004 and 2005).
there was no statistically significant difference in test scores of reading
and math between students who won the lottery and those who
entered the lottery but did not win. However. the third-year evaluation
of the voucher program (released in 20(9) found that there was
"a statistically significant positive impact on reading test scores. but
not math test scores." The reading scores represented a gain of more
than three months of learning"

Supporters of vouchers were ecstatic about the third·year evaluation
because at last they had hard evidence that vouchers would
benefit students. They glossed over the finding that these gains \vere
limited to certain groups of students. The students who experienced
gains in reading were those who entered the program from schools
that were not in need of improvement, those who entered the program
in the upper two-thirds of the test score distribution. and those
who entered in grades K-8. Females also seemed to benefit, though
that finding was not as robust as the others. The groups that did
not experience improvement in reading (or math) were boys, secondary
students. students from SINI [Schools in Need of Improvement] schools. and sludents in the lowest third of the test score distribution. The students who did not
see any gains were those in the highest-priority groups. the ones for
whom the program was designed: those with the lowest test scores
and those who had previously attended SINI schools."
Bill Duncan,
Jan 31, 2012, 7:51 AM
Bill Duncan,
Jan 31, 2012, 7:51 AM