Yesterday, the South Bend Tribune published a piece highlighting the recent release of a voucher study entitled “Study: Math scores drop for low-income students who use vouchers for private schools.”
“Low-income Indiana students who use vouchers to attend private schools experienced drops in their math scores for several years, according to results of a new study.
The results raise questions about the notion that poor students benefit from school choice by being able to attend private schools.”
So, what does South Bend have to do with North Carolina? A lot. Besides being the home of the University of Notre Dame, South Bend is in a state that is a hotbed of privatization efforts like North Carolina except their voucher program is a tad bit more transparent.
Last year, Duke University released a rather damning report on the Opportunity Grants in NC. The entire report can be found here: https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.
Consider this table from that report:
Notice that the state of Indiana requires schools that take vouchers to participate in the state’s testing program.
When Duke released its study, one of the points it made was that schools which receive vouchers did not have to participate in state testing protocols:
- THE LEGISLATIVE DECISION TO EXEMPT VOUCHER STUDENTS FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE STANDARD STATE END-OF-GRADE TESTS MEANS THAT NO RESEARCHER WILL EVER BE ABLE TO MAKE AN “APPLES-TO-APPLES” COMPARISON BETWEEN PUBLIC SCHOOL AND VOUCHER STUDENTS (18).
Indiana’s program started in 2011 before NC’s did, and this study is able to make an “apples-to-apples” measure and the conclusions are not very good for voucher advocates. The fact that the NC Opportunity Grants can not be measured in an “apples-to-apples” approach that is more scientifically sound is a reflection of the deliberate attempt to not be able to measure its actual effectiveness.
Voucher proponents here in North Carolina erroneously have pointed to a recent NC State Study that hinted at possible success of the voucher system.
This past summer the Charlotte Observer carried an op-ed penned by the interim president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) Brian Jodice entitled “Public money for private school scholarships is working, and will soon expand dramatically” (https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article215498550.html).
Jodice’s reference to that recent NC State study is probably the biggest indicator that what he pins his hope upon to verify the validity of the voucher program is not stable at all. And it should not be worthy of praise because he deliberately misspeaks what the conclusion of that study was.
“Early academic evaluation is encouraging. In June, independent researchers from NC State University released findings from the first-ever academic analysis of the program, revealing “large, positive impacts” on student achievement associated with using a scholarship. Follow-up studies are needed, but this early report card represents very good news.”
Even the people who conducted the study cautioned against drawing conclusions. This is from WUNC – http://www.wunc.org/post/researchers-say-nc-voucher-program-needs-closer-look-they-can-give#stream/0.
That sample they used? Over half were from established Catholic schools in NC which represent in reality a very small percentage of the voucher recipient pool. In fact, that study has been attacked so much from non-academics that it begs to ask why it was done in the first place. That’s how many holes it has.
The study from Indiana about Indiana’s voucher system was an “apples-to-apples” comparison. It reflected that the math scores for low-income students who used vouchers to go to private schools in math went down over a period of years.
The NC State study about North Carolina’s Opportunity Grants cannot even offer an “apples-to-apples” comparison. It’s more like an “apples-to-broccoli” comparison. And even then, that study said that NC’s voucher system needs more transparency.
But alas, our lawmakers think it is great to pour money into.