Friday, August 31, 2012
Despite Inconclusive Audit Results, Impact of School Choice Programs Remains Strong
Despite a state audit of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) released this week that could not conclude how the voucher schools impacted state scores for the program’s participants—in part due to a recent change in state testing requirements—overwhelming evidence still shows strong benefits from participating in voucher programs.
The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program requires that all students in grades 4, 8, and 10 who participate in the program take a nationally normed standardized test. The School Choice Demonstration Project, which conducts a gold-standard, independent evaluation of the program, found earlier this year that students participating in the Milwaukee voucher program show gains in academic achievement and are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll and subsist in college.
The independent evaluation's results showed that vouchers students were more than 7 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than students in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). Studies also show that a majority of parents with children in the program would rate their child’s voucher school with an “A,” compared to only 34 percent of MPS parents. In particular, “MPCP parents are most satisfied with what is taught in school, school safety, and the amount their child has learned.”
Dr. Patrick Wolf, the principal investigator of the School Choice Demonstration Project and lead researcher on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, said the following about the Legislative Audit Bureau’s inconclusive results:
"We pointed out, ourselves, that it was difficult to untangle the academic gains from the Choice Program from any boost they might have received by switching to a high stakes test. Still, the evidence is clear that participants in the Choice Program graduated from high school, enrolled in four-year colleges, and persisted in college at significantly higher rates than did comparable MPS students. This finding of higher educational attainment in the Choice Program, which is ignored in the Audit Bureau report, is important because higher levels of attainment are closely associated with a host of better life outcomes for individuals and society. The fact that private school choice programs boost educational attainment has been established by every study that has examined that question, in the District of Columbia, New York City, and Milwaukee."
- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG