Florida voucher students learning no more, no less than public school students, study shows
Florida students using corporate tax credit vouchers to attend private schools are making about the same academic progress as their peers in public schools, according to the results of a long-awaited studyobtained by the Gradebook this morning.
Depending on the spin-o-rama we all know is coming, the results either show that 1) vouchers have failed to deliver improved academic success, or 2) voucher kids are doing just as well as public school kids at far less cost to taxpayers.
The report, authored by former University of Florida economist David Figlio, compared the test score gains of voucher students vs. similar students in public schools. Voucher students do not have to take the FCAT, but legislation passed in 2006 and signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush required that they take a comparable standardized test so comparisons could be made. Figlio used test results from 2006-07 as a baseline to compare against results from 2007-08.
At a first glance, Figlio’s findings do not appear to be a direct hit for either side. And Figlio, now at Northwestern, urges caution because of technical considerations: “Because the retroactive 2006-07 test score collection was imperfect, it will be necessary to wait until the collection of 2008-09 scores before one can determine whether program participants’ gains are larger, smaller, or about the same as public school students’ gains.”
But Figlio’s secondary findings do put a dent in one of the arguments advanced by voucher critics – that vouchers will hurt public schools by cream-skimming the best students out. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. Writes Figlio:
“Program participants are more likely to come from lower-performing public schools prior to entering the program. In addition, they tend to be among the lowest-performing students in their prior school, regardless of the performance level of their public schools.”
We’ll post more results and reaction soon.
Ron Matus, state education reporter