Monday, June 25

No big surprise: voucher results are "inconclusive" thus far

The first test results from Washington D.C.'s voucher experiment were released late last week, and (not surprisingly) both sides of the debate are claiming victory, or at least not admitting defeat.

The Washington Post article linked to above does a good job of summarizing the results and the history of the issue there; the ultimate result, in my eyes, is that it's really still too early to tell whether the results are positive or not. Most programs that fundamentally change the game in public education take more than a single year to demonstrate results. So I wouldn't grant the naysayers too much credence quite yet.

That said, some on the pro-voucher side have said that the simple fact that students who switched schools didn't do worse is support for their position. I'm skeptical of this argument, too-- ultimately I think we just need more time to wait and see.

On a procedural note, I was heartened to read about how the effects of the vouchers were measured, comparing voucher applicants who received vouchers to those who applied but did not receive them. Since the vouchers were awarded by lottery, this method should accurately provide the random variation necessary for a good control group. If this method can be used in subsequent years, after the effects of school changes are more substantial, I'm hopeful that we'll be able to see the real results of D.C.'s program.

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