Missouri Advocates Respond to Research on D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program
May 26, 2017

The Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri (CEAM) is pointing to flaws in new research on D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education’s research division reported that first-year students in the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP)—the nation’s only federally funded school voucher initiative—performed worse on standardized tests after entering D.C. private schools than their peers who stayed in public schools. Released just as President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced their plan to invest more than one billion dollars into expanding private school scholarships nationwide, the report follows several other recent studies of state-funded voucher programs (Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio) that suggested negative effects on student achievement.

According to a recent editorial from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the findings seem to “help debunk the notion that voucher-enabled students in private schools produce better outcomes than those attending public schools.”

CEAM, however, argues the D.C. OSP report oversimplifies and overlooks key data, explaining “figuring out how to improve our country’s failing education system is much more complex than simply looking at one data set.”

The response from CEAM highlights several failings of the study, including:

  1. Ignoring the options that parents now have at their disposal as a result of programs such as OSP, and how this had an immediate impact on test scores
  2. Being shortsighted by only looking at how well students did in the first year after a move to a new school, which entails both social and academic stress that can have a considerable impact on test scores
  3. Funding the OSP at lower levels than charter and district schools
  4. Failing to take consider additional outcomes, such as impacts on graduation rates and school safety

According to CEAM, “when you take all of that data together, you end up with a vastly different picture of how voucher programs can transform education.”

For the full report, see here. Please reach out if you would like to connect with Missouri advocates.

Chris Nikolic

Chris is PIE Network's Associate, Research and Advancement

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