A June 2nd report in the News & Observer by Ned Barnett entitled “Three out of four N.C. voucher schools fail on curriculum” highlighted the findings of the NC Chapter of the League of Women Voters on the state’s voucher program.
Fundamentalist Christian schools are receiving most of the money from North Carolina’s 4-year-old school voucher program, but they’re not providing anything close to the “sound basic education” the state Constitution promises to North Carolina’s children, according to a new report from the League of Women Voters.
The League said in announcing its findings that “77 percent of private schools receiving vouchers are using curricula that do not comply with state standards, leaving many students unprepared for college-level coursework or careers in certain fields” (http://amp.newsobserver.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/ned-barnett/article212352824.html?__twitter_impression=true).
That’s not flattering. Couple that with the less than flattering report done by Duke University’s Children’s Law Center called SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NORTH CAROLINA : THE FIRST THREE YEARS. That report can be found here: https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf.
That Duke report summarized the following:
- Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools (3).
- Of the participating schools, less than 20% were secular schools; more than 80% were religious schools.
- The most typical size for a participating school is between 100 and 250 students. However, 33 schools (7%) have ten or fewer students, with another 42 (9%) enrolling 20 or fewer students. Together, that means that nearly a fifth of the schools accepting vouchers have total enrollments of 20 or fewer students (8).
- Although it is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison, the most recent data shows that comparable students who remained in public schools are scoring better than the voucher students on national tests (12).
- In comparison to most other states, North Carolina’s general system of oversight of private schools is weak. (13).
Then today, NC State released another evaluation of the Opportunity Grants Program. It is entitled ““An Impact Analysis of North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program on Student Achievement.” A link to the report can be found on EdNC.org (https://www.ednc.org/2018/06/04/researchers-release-an-impact-analysis-of-north-carolinas-opportunity-scholarship-program-on-student-achievement/).
It states that there are “large positive impacts associated with voucher usage in North Carolina.”
Hard to put these two recent reports next to each other and not have some questions. One says that the curriculum taught by most voucher recipient schools do not even compare with the state curriculum. The other says that the vouchers have created positive impacts in student test scores.
There may be some who will argue that together these reports prove a Biblical-based curriculum is best for students and for test scores. But that is hard to fathom because there are some aspects of the NC State Study that do not hold enough weight to be scientifically sound.
When reading about the recruitment of the students to be used in the study, the researchers relied heavily on the Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC). From page 11 of the report:
That reads “the bulk of recruitment support was ultimately provided” by PEFNC. To say that PEFNC has an extreme bias as to needing to show a positive spin on vouchers is an understatement – a giant understatement.
Relying on PEFNC to provide a scientifically sounding random sample to use in the study is not a very sound move. Consider last summer’s report by Lindsey Wagner, then of the AJ Fletcher Foundation.
Entitled “Are publicly-funded private school vouchers helping low-income kids? We don’t know”, Wagner’s piece showcases one of the primary redundancies purposefully used by funded “school choice” advocates like PEFNC. Her article focused much on the most vocal proponent of the school choice movement in North Carolina – Darrell Allison, then the leader of PEFNC (Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina).
To say that he is still one of the most influential non-law maker on educational reform in the state is not a stretch; his recent appointment to the UNC Board of Governors and his ability to lobby lawmakers in Raleigh certainly gives him more clout than most pro-public school legislators on West Jones Street.
Wagner raised a rather glaring inconsistency when it comes to whether vouchers are really helping low-income students.
The leader of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, Darrell Allison, said recently that school vouchers aren’t likely to hurt children from low-income households who use them. But he couldn’t say definitively that the voucher program actually helps these children, either (http://ajf.org/publicly-funded-private-school-vouchers-helping-low-income-kids-dont-know/).
On February 15th, 2018 Darrell Allison was chosen to assume a leadership position with AFC, the Betsy DeVos – founded school choice advocacy group in Washington D.C. known as the American Federation For Children. Allison is also on the board of Achievement for All Children (AAC) which now has been hired to oversee the Innovation School District for North Carolina.
PEFNC needs this study to work for them – IN THE WORST WAY. Too much is at stake.
Go back to the original data table from the beginning of this post.
It seems very difficult to even “quantify” the effectiveness of the NC voucher system when the oversight of it from the state level is so porous. Therefore, allowing a group like PEFNC to control what can be quantified in this study skews the results.
Yes, the study does mention that there is more to be investigated, but why publish this when that is the case? Besides the students “recruited” for this study do not even represent a random sample. Ann Doss Helms from the Charlotte Observer reported on the NC State Study. She stated,
Just over half of the voucher schools that participated in the study were Catholic, while only 10 percent of all schools receiving North Carolina vouchers are Catholic (http://amp.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article211941074.html?__twitter_impression=true).
Over half of the students “recruited” by PEFNC were from a select number of schools that represent less than 10 percent of voucher schools.
That’s not random. That’s excessively controlled.
Established schools in the North Carolina diocese have been proven to be very competitive academically. But do not think that a private school does not have the ability to pretest a potential student to see if he/she can handle the rigors of a strong curriculum. Those pretests are the part of many admission requirements.
Public schools take in all students. Private schools do not. Competitive private schools that have a history of excellence do not have to accept just any student.
To allow the PEFNC to heavily facilitate the “recruitment” of students to use in the study suggests too much of a leap of faith in another biased organization’s ability to be totally objective.
It’s just not scientifically valid. But look who funded the study.
The Walton Family Foundation.
And the Walton Family Foundation is not financing a study unless the study says what the Walton Foundation wants it to say.
They are not alone.
When one adds the Walton Foundation, Art Pope, and PEFNC together, the sum is not scientific integrity and objectivity.