The latest evaluation of the Florida voucher program showed that students in voucher schools made academic gains similar to their peers in public schools.
I am old enough to remember the old rhetoric:
Vouchers were going to “save” poor children from “failing” public schools.
Vouchers were going to “close the achievement gap.”
Vouchers were a panacea, all by themselves, for producing high academic achievement.
None of that is true.
If you read very, very carefully, you could find some tiny gains, but no panacea; no closing of the achievement gap.
When does all the high-flown rhetoric end?
Imagine if all those millions had been used to improve the public schools and to unite communities in common purpose.
This is from the report:
Test scores of program participants, 2010-11:
● The typical student in the program scored at the 45th national percentile in reading and
the 46th percentile in mathematics, about the same as in 2008-09 and 2009-10. The
distribution of test scores is similar whether one considers the entire program population
or only those who took the Stanford Achievement Test in the spring of 2010. The
Stanford Achievement Test is the most commonly administered test and is the test most
directly comparable to the FCAT.
● The mean reading gain for program participants is exactly 0 national percentile ranking
points in reading and -0.9 national percentile ranking points in mathematics. These mean
gains are indistinguishable from zero. In other words, the typical student participating in
the program gained a year’s worth of learning in a year’s worth of time. It is important to
note that these national comparisons pertain to all students nationally, and not just lowincome students.
● Test score gains for program participants are virtually identical to those of income-eligible non-participants remaining in Florida public schools. Participating students
gained slightly relative to comparable public school students in 2010-11, though this
difference is not statistically significant. It is important to recall that the participating
students differ from the income-eligible public school students in important ways – their
incomes are substantially lower and their previous test performance in public school
tended to be substantially lower. These differences make direct comparison of gain scores
more problematic. Because families can choose whether to participate in the program, it
is inappropriate to consider the differences in test score gains between FTC Program
participants and their public school counterparts to be caused by program participation.
It is, therefore, best to consider the fact that test score gains are extremely similar
between the public and private sector to be suggestive evidence of little difference in
average performance across the sectors, rather than causal evidence of differential
performance. That said, in past cohorts for whom there existed sufficient data to estimate
the causal consequences of program participation, there was evidence of positive effects
of participation in the FTC program, especially for math. Little has changed in terms of
test scores or factors influencing program participation across cohorts, indicating that one
might infer, albeit with caution, that positive effects found in prior cohorts continued to
the most recent application cohort.
● Recent statistical research has shown that the FTC Program has improved the
performance of Florida public schools to a modest degree. Therefore, the correct
interpretation of the findings in this report are that students participating in the program
have kept pace with the improvements in the public schools associated with the FTC