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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Imagine me doing an "I told you so" dance

by folkbum

Actually, don't. It's probably not attractive, even in your head. But, still, I told you so:
Summarizing a comparison of how matched groups of voucher and MPS students did across two years of tests, the researchers wrote:

"The primary finding in all of these comparisons is that there is no overall statistically significant difference between MPCP (voucher) and MPS student achievement growth in either math or reading one year after they were carefully matched to each other."

A second study, which looked at broader, but not scientifically matched groups of MPS and voucher students, found that the percentages of fourth-graders in voucher schools who met the state's definition of proficiency in reading and math were lower than percentages for low-income MPS fourth-graders. For eighth-graders, the proficiency rates were about the same.
Additionally frustrating regarding this study, which was supposed to be the big "accountability" measure in the mess of a compromise bill a few years ago that allowed the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program to expand to its present size, is that there are no school-specific data available. Republicans in the legislature and the voucher proponents pushing for expansion flat-out demanded that school-specific data must not be made available to the public.

MPS releases detailed report cards every year for every program, breaking down test scores, retention rates, truancy rates, graduation rates, and so on. Parents cannot get that data about the voucher schools, and that's by design. Many voucher advocates long have argued from one side of their mouths that parents must be allowed to make the best choices for their children and then argued with the other that the data to inform parents' decisions must be kept out of parents' hands.

Now we know why: There is a perception that voucher schools are or must be better. If parents were aware of reality--that there is, in fact, no difference in achievement--then the popularity of the program may well start to wane. And if the data revealed that some voucher schools are, in fact, no better than day-care centers or holding pens, then the advocates would have a serious PR problem on their hands, too--much worse than just the news that voucher schools aren't the panacea they promised two decades ago.

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