Voucher students make academic gains similar to other students
This one is overdue. The latest report about Florida's corporate tax credit scholarships came out a week ago, saying that students in the program maintained their academic progress and made the same kind of gains as eligible students in the state's public schools. To qualify for the vouchers, students must be low-income.
The report, which is required by state law, shows that a "typical" voucher student made a year's worth of learning in a year's time, which is the same finding as in reports from 2008/09 and 2009/2010.
The researcher, David Figlio of Northwestern University, wrote that test score gains for voucher students were "virtually identical" to those of eligible students in Florida's public schools. That's interesting to note because students in the program - who use the vouchers to help pay for private school tuition - typically are among the highest need students.
They tend to come from poorer families, even among those who qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and they also tend to be among the lowest performing students in their prior school - no matter how well the school itself performed. That difference can make it difficult for a true comparison between students in the program and students eligible for it but in public school. Figlio also notes that you can't say that participation in the voucher program has caused any gain in scores.
"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 (program,)" he wrote.
As noted by my colleague, Jeff Solochek, the scholarship program has been wildly popular. More than 50,000 students were approved for the new school year, with thousands more waiting. More than 87,000 families put in applications this year, compared to 69,000 last year. See that blog post here.
Students in the program don't have to take the FCAT, but they are required to take a standardized test. Most - about 69 percent - take the Stanford Achievement Test.