Welcome back, fellow policy explorers. I apologize for my absence these past few days, but the start of the 2016 legislative session and other pressing edu-business issues have kept me away from my keyboard this week. We’re back to work today, and will be looking at some new school choice research out of Louisiana.
First, a bit of bad news. We can no longer say no random-assignment study has ever found that private school choice programs have a negative effect on students. Until recently, there had been 12 random-assignment studies on the topic, of which six found positive impacts for all students, five found positive impacts for some students and not for others, and one found no visible effect.
Enter unlucky number 13. A working paper recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research examined the effects of the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), which provides vouchers for lower-income kids attending public schools with a C, D, or F grade under the state’s evaluation system. Started in 2008, the program was initially limited to just New Orleans—a place that many of you know I happen to see as something of a proof point in the reform conversation. The program went statewide in 2012, and now serves about 7,100 kids.
Because the LSP uses a lottery system to award vouchers at schools with more applicants than available seats, the researchers were able to easily compare randomly assigned (thus, “random-assignment”) voucher recipients and non-recipients in the program’s first statewide year. I’ll let you work your way through the full paper and its methodology on your own if you are so inclined. For now, we’ll settle for a snippet from the abstract:
This comparison reveals that LSP participation substantially reduces academic achievement. Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children. Continue Reading »