Margaret Fosmoe, writing for the South Bend Tribune, has a report on the study by Mark Berends and Joseph Waddington of Indiana’s voucher program. Math scores dropped for lower income students who used vouchers to go to private schools.
The study was based on educational results of 34,587 students in 871 public schools, and 3,363 voucher students in 265 private schools. The schools and students were not identified in the study.
. . .
Students in the study were generally in about the 40 percentile in terms of math scores before transferring to private schools, then dropped to about the 35th percentile and didn’t improve.
Low income students were the ostensible reason for Indiana’s aggressive voucher policy. I’ve argued for a long time that this was a pretext — the real reason was 1) subsidizing religious education; 2) hurting teachers unions; and 3) diverting money to friends and well-wishers of policymakers — but, if you take lawmakers at their word that this was being done to help low income students, then it looks like we’ve wasted a lot of money and done some harm in the process.
Says State Board of Education member, Gordon Hendry, “The conclusions are somewhat concerning. It demonstrates the need for further study and evaluation so we can have more data about the results of this program.” With all due respect (and at least Hendry responded to the South Bend Tribune), the time for study was before we jumped into the voucher pond with both feet. Successful school systems in the rest of the world don’t do it this way. Other than the pretexts suggested above (which, to be clear, I’m not attributing to Hendry – I don’t pretend to know his motivations) and certain dogmatic ideas about the infallibility of the marketplace, there was no reason we had to try to reinvent the wheel in order to improve our schools.