Analysis, Commentary

New Center for American Progress Analysis: Outcomes of Voucher Programs Equivalent to Losing 68 Days of Schooling

School vouchers
A high school student walks down a dark hallway in a public high school in Concord, California. (Source: Center for American Progress)

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)—March 20, 2018

By: Ulrich Boser, Meg Benner, and Erin Roth

The fiscal year 2019 budget proposed by President Donald Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recommends doubling the federal investment in school voucher programs. As DeVos testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on that budget, a new analysis from the Center for American Progress examines the harmful effects of school vouchers and finds that vouchers are equivalent to losing 68 days of learning.

“The federal government must direct funding and create policy to support research-based education policies. Instead, the Trump-DeVos budget proposes to redirect public dollars that support public schools to private schools that hurt student achievement,” said Ulrich Boser, senior fellow at CAP and co-author of the analysis.

“Voucher programs hinder student growth. While school choice is important to ensure that students can attend a school that best meets individualize needs, school choices within the public sector have better student outcomes,” said Meg Benner, senior consultant at CAP.

CAP’s analysis builds on a large body of voucher program evaluations in Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., all of which show that students attending participating private schools perform significantly worse than their peers in public schools—especially in math. CAP’s analysis focused on the most recent evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, finding that a public school student who is average in math—in the 50th percentile—declines to the 45th percentile after participating in the D.C. voucher program for one year.

Using the “days of learning conversion” pioneered by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, CAP’s analysis calculates this decrease in performance to be equivalent to losing 68 days of learning that a student would otherwise would have received had they remained in their traditional public school. CAP’s analysis also compares the negative outcomes of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to other in-school factors that negatively affect student achievement, including violence at school, feeling unsafe, teacher turnover, and teacher absenteeism. The D.C. voucher program had a greater negative effect on math achievement than any of the other factors.

Click here to read “The Highly Negative Impacts of Vouchers” by Ulrich Boser, Meg Benner, and Erin Roth.