Latest Research Builds Winning Record for School Choice: Still Waiting for DougCo

Update, 5/14: The U.S. Department of Education gave the Chingos & Peterson study its highest rating for the quality of research design, further validating a positive impact of school choice.

Gold-standard research on the positive impacts of school choice keeps rolling in. The latest work by Matthew Chingos and Paul Peterson measures the results for New York City students who received modest privately-funded vouchers to attend private schools. The study directly compared how many voucher students successfully completed high school and enrolled in college compared to non-voucher peers. For one group in particular, the results are remarkable:

Among African Americans, 26 percent of the control group attended college full-time at some point within three years of expected high-school graduation. The impact of a voucher offer was to increase this rate by 7 percentage points, a 25 percent increment. Among students using the voucher to attend a private school, the estimated impact was 8 percentage points, or roughly 31 percent.

No statistically significant results were found for other groups of students. The authors speculate that the observed benefit may have occurred because “the African American students in the study had fewer educational opportunities in the absence of a voucher.” Most notably, the effect measured is greater than some of the popular, widely-used, and costlier reform efforts of smaller class sizes or improved teacher quality.

The newly-released study by Chingos and Peterson adds to the tally in the Friedman Foundation’s updated tally of the best studies on private school choice programs (i.e., random-assignment studies that “assign” similar subjects to different treatments: those who participate in choice vs. those who do not).

A couple years ago I highlighted the latest version of A Win-Win Solution, but the overall record of vouchers and tax credits looks even brighter now:

  • Out of 12 studies on academic outcomes for participating students, 11 show positive results and zero negative
  • Out of 23 studies on competitive outcomes for surrounding public schools, 22 find positive results and zero negative
  • Out of 8 studies, 7 find school choice decreases racial segregation and 1 finds no effect
  • Out of 7 studies measuring student civic values, 5 find positive effects and zero negative
  • All 6 studies breaking down the fiscal impacts of private school choice find they save money for taxpayers

Talk about a strong overall record and a true win for students, parents, and taxpayers. Two years ago, I also mused about whether the results from research on Douglas County would fall in line. Because of an ongoing legal battle and injunction, the answer is that we still don’t know. We can’t know, because the program is on hold.

DougCo’s Choice Scholarship Program is designed in a way to save tax dollars, so there’s every reason to believe the perfect research record would continue there. And there’s NO evidence in the record to suggest the program would yield any harm. But in order to find out, we are left to wait. And wait….

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really good with patience yet. I’ll keep trying, though. In the meantime, let’s all savor the latest results that confirm how well school choice works! And let’s give a big push to help Colorado Kids Win with a statewide program giving tax credits for K-12 scholarship donations!