July/August 2018 Church & State Magazine - July/August 2018

Dept. Of Education Study Finds D.C. Voucher Program Continues To Fail Students

  Liz Hayes

A few weeks after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hyped private school voucher schemes during her testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee, De­Vos’ own Department of Education released the latest in a string of studies to find that private school vouchers aren’t improving student achievement.

In fact, the new study on the effects of the Washington, D.C., voucher program – the only federally funded voucher program – found that students with vouchers are performing worse academically than their peers not in the program. And voucher students’ scores were worse this year than they were last year.

When comparing students using a voucher with those students who applied for but were denied a voucher, the study found that voucher students overall performed 10 percentage points worse in math. This represents an even greater decrease in voucher students’ negative math performance from the previous year’s study – meaning that the gap in math achievement between voucher students and nonvoucher students is growing.

D.C. students entering kindergarten through fifth grade – the age group that makes up 68 percent of the voucher program’s applicants – saw negative impacts to both math and reading scores compared to their peers not in the voucher program, according to the study.

Other study findings included that voucher students had less access to resources for students with learning disabilities; and that voucher students who are English language learners received an hour less in classroom instruction time per week in math and reading, and generally had fewer schoolwide safety resources, than nonvoucher students.

The study also found that after two years in the program, there was no statistically significant impact on students’ or parents’ general satisfaction with their school, nor was there a statistically significant impact on parental involvement.

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