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Education Professors Ignore the Evidence on School Choice

June 10, 2019 in Economics

By Corey A. DeAngelis

Corey A. DeAngelis

Here we go again. Just a few days ago, two education professors
released a shockingly misleading piece on the private school choice
evidence.

Here are the facts.

The authors claim that the “latest evidence” shows
that the Washington, D.C., voucher program has “large,
negative impacts on academic achievement.” The only problem
is that the most recent federal evaluation of the D.C. voucher program
does not show any negative effects on student test scores
after
three years. In fact, the study finds statistically significant
positive effects on reports of safety, satisfaction, and
attendance. What’s more, the D.C. choice program produces
these benefits at about a third of the cost of nearby public schools.

There are a lot of
disagreements in the school choice debate. But we should all be
able to agree on one thing: At a bare minimum, we should be able to
trust academics to responsibly report (and engage with) the
scientific evidence. Yet, here we are.

How could anyone get these findings so wrong?

The authors irresponsibly cited the first-
and second-year evaluations of the D.C. voucher program
which found negative effects on math test scores, but no effects on
reading, while completely omitting the most recent third-year results finding no effects on test scores.
In other words, students that won the lottery to use the voucher
program caught up to their public school peers on math achievement
after three years.

But by omitting the most recent D.C. evaluation, the authors
were able to further (falsely) claim that other researchers were
wrong to think that initial test score losses would disappear since
“more recent follow-up studies show that the harm is
significant and sustained.” Obviously, citing the most recent school voucher study, showing just that,
would contradict their own claim.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that both education
scholars missed the most recent school choice results. After all,
the study had only been public for a little over three weeks by the
time their piece came out. But overlooking such important results
when summarizing the “latest research” would be
negligent of “researchers who study school choice and education policy.”

The authors cite just three other evaluations (two of which are
nonexperimental) to support the notion that “vouchers harm
student learning.” But researchers should cite all of the
most rigorous existing studies to avoid unintentional
cherry-picking. Here’s the entire picture.

Sixteen random assignment studies link private
school choice programs to student test scores in the United States.
The majority (11) of the 16 gold-standard studies find
statistically significant positive …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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