Friday, July 29, 2011

Voucher programs fail to deliver promised academic gains, national research review finds

The National Opportunity to Learn Campaign applauds the Center on Education Policy for its initiative and diligence in conducting a national review of a decade of research that, among other key findings, concludes that publicly funded voucher programs have failed to produce promised academic gains for thousands of students. 

After all these years of diverting taxpayer funds from public education, the research shows that low-income students who switched schools using a voucher program are not experiencing academic progress that is any more substantial than their public school peers, according to the CEP’s report, “Keeping Informed about School Vouchers: A Review of Major Developments and Research.” 

CEP reviewers found that students receiving vouchers in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., showed no significance difference in reading and math achievement.

The CEP report confirms what those who oppose vouchers have been saying for a long time: Voucher programs are inherently flawed in that they siphon off precious public school dollars and don’t improve students’ educational experiences.

“Vouchers have never been the answer,” says Tina Dove, National Director for the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. “Instead, our state and federal leaders should be focusing on systemic solutions that invest in public education and work toward ensuring all children are guaranteed a fair and substantive opportunity to learn as a civil right.”

The privatization of public education through vouchers means that public dollars are used to support private schools, which often discriminate against students with physical and learning disabilities and English language learners, some of our most vulnerable students.

Other key findings in the CEP report include:

  •  In the absence of evidence that voucher students do any better than their public school peers, advocates have shifted their rhetoric to focus more on the value of parent choice and overall parent satisfaction. 
  • Initially created to aid low-income students in low-performing urban school districts, some newer voucher programs – such as those in Indiana, Wisconsin and Douglas County, Colo. – are open to middle-income and suburban families.
  • Greater scrutiny of voucher research is necessary to help ensure that studies are not biased.
The National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, which is focused on eliminating the opportunity gap that is fueling a persistent achievement gap, aims to hold state and federal leaders accountable for ensuring that all children, regardless of where they live, have equitable access to an opportunity to learn. Competitive programs that benefit limited numbers of children are not the answer. We must, instead, make sure all children have access to the four building blocks research has proven are needed for academic success: high-quality early childhood education; highly prepared and effective teachers; rigorous college-prep curriculum; and equitable instructional materials and policies.

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