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Study Shows No Advantage in Voucher Schools

As the nationwide debate over school choice widens, a new study shows that children in the Cleveland voucher program made no significant gains in academic achievement when compared to public school students.
As the nationwide debate over school choice widens, a new study shows that children in the Cleveland voucher program made no significant gains in academic achievement when compared to public school students.

The study, by Clive Belfield of the City University of New York, also showed that Cleveland public school children scored higher in math than children attending private schools on vouchers. Both groups faired about the same in reading.

Test scores, however, "may not be the best source of evidence that vouchers work," Belfield said during the Innovations in Education conference at the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland Thursday. "Alternative measures such as drop-out or truancy rates may be more appropriate," he said. These factors could be studied in the future as voucher programs expand. It's plausible, he said, that some voucher programs work better than others.

Belfield said his study looked at second- and fourth-graders. He noted that second-grade public school children had lower language scores. Except for math, fourth-grade scores in reading and language were about the same for both public and voucher students.

Teachers, however, did seem to make a difference. Scores were higher in fourth-grade classes where teachers had more experience, said Belfield, an assistant professor of economics and associate director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College.

This article, written by Ellen Jan Kleinerman, appeared on November 19th, 2005 publication of The Plain Dealer.

Published Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005

Study Shows No Advantage in Voucher Schools

As the nationwide debate over school choice widens, a new study shows that children in the Cleveland voucher program made no significant gains in academic achievement when compared to public school students.

The study, by Clive Belfield of the City University of New York, also showed that Cleveland public school children scored higher in math than children attending private schools on vouchers. Both groups faired about the same in reading.

Test scores, however, "may not be the best source of evidence that vouchers work," Belfield said during the Innovations in Education conference at the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland Thursday. "Alternative measures such as drop-out or truancy rates may be more appropriate," he said. These factors could be studied in the future as voucher programs expand. It's plausible, he said, that some voucher programs work better than others.

Belfield said his study looked at second- and fourth-graders. He noted that second-grade public school children had lower language scores. Except for math, fourth-grade scores in reading and language were about the same for both public and voucher students.

Teachers, however, did seem to make a difference. Scores were higher in fourth-grade classes where teachers had more experience, said Belfield, an assistant professor of economics and associate director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College.

This article, written by Ellen Jan Kleinerman, appeared on November 19th, 2005 publication of The Plain Dealer.

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