Comprehensive Milwaukee Voucher Study Shows Some Positive, No Harmful Results

The big news from the education reform world this week is the release of the School Choice Demonstration Project’s final reports evaluating five years of matched student comparisons between the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and the Milwaukee Public Schools. What can we learn about vouchers from the results of this program?

The American Federation for Children summed up the top-level findings in a Monday press release:

Students enrolled in the Milwaukee voucher program are more likely to graduate from high school and go to college than their public school counterparts, boast significantly improved reading scores, represent a more diverse cross-section of the city, and are improving the results of traditional public school students, according to a comprehensive evaluation of the program released today.

According to Dr. Jay Greene, “perhaps the most interesting part of the new Milwaukee results” is the steep discrepancy in how many special-needs students are being served by the voucher program. The SCDP’s findings of anywhere between 7.5 and 14.6 percent blows away the official state government agency calculation of 1.6 percent.

In his summary of the findings, SCDP lead researcher Patrick Wolf breaks down all these findings and more, noting that all the 20-year-old voucher program’s impacts are either positive or neutral. For those who prefer not to read and sift through the results, the fact that his team found “no evidence of any harmful effects of choice” is one of the themes featured in Wolf’s new video interview with Bob Bowdon of Choice Media TV:

Both Patrick Wolf and Jay Greene were among the “nine scholars and analysts” who last week co-authored an Education Week column highlighting the big-picture state of school choice research, what we’ve learned and where to go from here. I endured a little ribbing for last week’s post promoting the published team to school choice superhero status. To be honest I’ve had second thoughts about the comparison.

Given the number of authors with names attached to the column, I believe the better analogy would be to a baseball team. Any Photoshop gurus out there willing to take on the task? The only questions remaining are who should play which position? And where should they bat in the lineup? I’ll leave more adventurous souls to tackle those pressing issues…