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Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
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The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform.

But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.

While many policy ideas have murky origins, vouchers emerged fully formed from a single, brilliant essay published in 1955 by Milton Friedman, the free-market godfather later to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics. Because “a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens,” Mr. Friedman wrote, the government should pay for all children to go to school.

But, he argued, that doesn’t mean the government should run all the schools. Instead, it could give parents vouchers to pay for “approved educational services” provided by private schools, with the government’s role limited to “ensuring that the schools met certain minimum standards.”

The voucher idea sat dormant for years before taking root in a few places, most notably Milwaukee. Yet even as many of Mr. Friedman’s other ideas became Republican Party orthodoxy, most national G.O.P. leaders committed themselves to a different theory of educational improvement: standards, testing and accountability. That movement reached an apex when the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 brought a new focus on tests and standards to nearly every public school nationwide. The law left voucher supporters with crumbs: a small demonstration project in Washington, D.C.

• Category: Ideology • Tags: Conservative Movement, Public Schools, Vouchers 
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  1. Ivy says:

    Awaiting the extra financial component of vouchers. Will places in sought-after schools be auctioned off under the table, or via special donations to the school vendor fund? Forgive me for being suspicious but I don’t believe that we have seen all of the details on who benefits from what in the school area. Will it include some debt aspect, or other peonage in training feature? Past privatizations have enriched a few while underperforming for the many.

  2. My wife and I ran the gamut with schooling for our sons. We did public, private, and home schooling at various times with them. Whatever they needed at any particular time was our guide. Our eldest was home schooled, went to a private school, we took him out for a year and schooled him at home. He then went to private school through 8th grade. He went to the smaller of the public high schools in our village. The school district wanted to put him in the much larger high school but we asked for an exemption. We thought a smaller school would be better for him having come from a 8th grade class of 15 students. When they initially denied our request they told us to have him start at the larger school then request a transfer. They said the school would probably not let him transfer because of his test scores. He’s kind of a genius. We told them he would not attend school in district if he couldn’t go to the smaller school. Apparently they did not want the district to lose his scores so we got the transfer and he did fairly well going from a school of about 100 students to one with 1000 students.

    Long way around the barn to get to my point: I am strongly opposed to vouchers because if you take their money (and I know it’s really our money) then you have to accept the strings that may come with the money. When we sent them to private schools we wanted them at a school which would not compromise their principles in order to get some federal dollars. The school they attended did provide scholarships to students whose families had financial hardship.

  3. Jason Liu says:

    Vouchers are irrelevant. Purging the schools of leftists is more important. Start defunding shit today.

    • Replies: @Inque Yutani
    , @cucksworth
  4. Private school vouchers are probably a bit like private prison vouchers. In theory the idea sounds fine, but if the facility is geared primarily to making profits, then cost cutting and fund raising will take precedence over good academic performance.

    The biggest “advantage” of private schools and prisons is that their use exempts local and state government from public oversight and possibly lawsuits and legal liability.

  5. Vouchers are supposed to create a free market in education, driving up standards.
    But it’s only a market if schools are free to reject pupils they don’t want.
    Voucher + disruptive, unintelligent, aggressive pupil has a lower market value than same voucher + bright, motivated, cooperative pupil.

  6. Agent76 says:

    The single person at the top does not change the overall century old plan and it remains regardless who is at the reins.

    Mar 10, 2014 Department of Education whistleblower Charlette Iserbyt about the deliberate dumbing down of America.

    The former US Department of Education Senior Policy Advisor suggests that the our educational system is not based upon children learning. Is the Carnegie foundation instrumental in developing a socialist-collectivist style educational system that is detrimental to our youth?

    This single chart demonstrates the truthfullness of Charlette Iserbyt as measured by student test scores.

    • Agree: Gene Su
  7. phil says:

    Vouchers or Race Realism?

    Before Charles Murray became a race realist, he argued that School Choice could lead to a convergence of black and white test scores. However, Arthur Jensen influenced Linda Gottfredson and then Linda Gottfredson influenced Charles Murray in the direction of race realism. In fact, the Coleman Report in the 1960s had already put forth the notion that the test scores of black students were primarily attributable to blacks themselves and not the schools they were attending.

    The same goes for the Asian-white test score gap. Cupertino, California (where Apple is headquartered) did not have a particularly distinguished school district until Asian tech workers arrived. Now the test scores in the district are among the highest in the state of California. Asian parents are actually critical of the schools, but when it comes to achieving high test scores, their attitude is “by all means necessary”. They will get high test scores with or without good schools.

  8. @Jason Liu

    Exactly. Vouchers are a small bandaid with bad adhesive over a gaping chest wound. Detonate the current educational establishment and rebuild it from scratch. Relentlessly release the statistics of failure against anyone who protests. Have Trump tweet a question asking why so and so is against fixing a broken system or ask why they hate children.

  9. Private schools are designed to educate children of average or above-average ability. With the exception of Maine and Vermont, nearly all vouchers are reserved for children of below-average ability, special needs or low-income. Private schools have neither the curriculum nor the financial resources to educate below-average children.

    Unlike most countries, public schools in the United States funnel most resources into educating the least educable. These children are provided special learning plans, learning specialists, after-school programs, and sometimes individual aides. Their coursework is dumbed down to a level that they can understand, very repetitive, and geared toward passing standardized tests. These children are incapable of learning normally, which is why in private schools they make no progress in reading and fall behind in math.

    • Replies: @Triumph104
    , @Philip Owen
  10. @Triumph104

    A repeat post of mine:

    In 2006, recent NAEP scores of private and public schools were compared. Private schools on average scored higher than public. However, when variables such as gender, race, disability/English learners, income, number of books in home, and absenteeism were taken into consideration, private schools performed the same as public schools. In other words, if public schools were allowed to cherry-pick students in the same manner that private schools do, there would be no difference in outcome.

    Grade 4 Reading: The average private school scored 14.7 points higher. After adjusting for variables, no difference. When Catholic and Lutheran schools were examined, they performed as the private schools overall.

    Grade 4 Math: Private schools scored 7.8 points higher. After adjusting for variables, private schools did worse and scored -4.5 points compared to public schools. Catholic and Lutheran schools performed as privates overall.

    Grade 8 Reading: Private schools scored 18.1 points higher. After adjusting for variables, privates scored 7.3 points higher. Catholic and Lutheran did the same, but Conservative Christian schools performed the same as public.

    Grade 8 Math: Private schools performed 12.3 points higher. After adjusting for variables, privates performed the same as public. Catholic schools performed the same as privates overall. Lutheran schools initially scored 19.5 points higher, and 4.9 points higher after adjustments. Conservative Christian schools initially scored 5.1 points higher, and after adjustments scored 7.6 points lower than public schools.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  11. @Triumph104

    Conservative Christian schools initially scored 5.1 points higher, and after adjustments scored 7.6 points lower than public schools.

    After adjusting for gender, race, disability/English learners, income, number of books in home, and absenteeism? really?

  12. @Triumph104

    The UK puts considerable funds into special needs children. Also a big boost in budget moved inner London (black) schools from bottom to well above average in school league tables.

    • Replies: @Triumph104
  13. @Jonathan Mason

    “but if the facility is geared primarily to making profits”

    What the fuck do you think the government schools are geared toward?

  14. MarkinLA says:

    Vouchers exist so some well connected worthless people in the private sector can get rich off the education scam rather than worthless school administrators getting rich off fat salaries and pensions.

    Meet the new boss.

  15. @Philip Owen

    Blacks in the UK are above average because a large segment of UK whites perform poorly. In the US, the worst performing white children still score better than the best performing black children. LINK (West Virginia 272 is the worst for whites, DoDea 271 is the best for blacks)

    Cultural differences lead to underperformance, not race. However, race, in the US at least, is usually a proxy for culture.

    Also, the UK does not have a large population of native blacks like the US. Blacks in the UK are basically the children and grandchildren of Caribbean and African immigrants, mixed with white, or both. Children in the US with those backgrounds do quite well academically and make up at least 60% of the black student body at Ivy League colleges.

    Barack Obama: white mother, Kenyan father
    Eric Holder (1st black US attorney general): Barbadian father, Barbadian maternal grandparents
    Colin Powell (4-star general, 1st black US Secretary of State): Jamaican parents
    Condoleeza Rice (PhD political science, US Secretary of State): DNA is 51% African, 40% European, and 9% Asian or Native American
    Shirley Chisholm (1st black woman elected to US Congress): mother Barbados, father British Guiana
    Katherine Johnson (subject of film Hidden Figures): nearly white black woman
    Neil deGrasse Tyson (astrophysicist): Puerto Rican mother
    John Urschel (National Football League and MIT PhD candidate in math): black mother, white father

  16. Gene Su says:

    Public schools are meant to turn children into barn animals. We don’t need vouchers. We just need to get rid of public schools.

  17. @Jonathan Mason

    You think that public schools with their constant clamoring for more taxes and new bond issues and six figure salaries and nifty pensions and one month of sick or personal days (plus the summers off) is non-profit? ….smile…. ….Lady in Red

  18. n230099 says: • Website

    “Tis education forms the common mind
    As the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined”**

    **Alexander Pope

  19. @Jason Liu

    This is a kneejerk and caustic reaction. The USA is not Turkey, we don’t just throw thousands of educators out on their asses, especially when they can be reeducated.

  20. @Jonathan Mason

    This can go either way. The schools need to be held accountable for results, not just in test scores, but long term outcomes.

    But for everyone else: a person making 60k per year doing an important and stressful job is not ‘for profit’ the way skimming millions of dollars by short changing students education is to be considered for profit.

  21. Gene Su says:

    Kevin Carey was very vague in this article. He omitted a lot of details. I wonder whether he was being honest. Then again, I’m not inclined to trust anything from the “New York Slimes.”

    “In mathematics,” they found, “voucher students who transfer to private schools experienced significant losses in achievement.” They also saw no improvement in reading.

    Public elementary school students who started at the 50th percentile in math and then used a voucher to transfer to a private school dropped to the 26th percentile in a single year.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean the student suddenly became worse performing when he/she transferred to a private school. That could mean a student who was scoring A’s from a low-expectation public school might now be getting C’s from a rigorous private school. Maybe the tests and assignments in the public school were far weaker and less demanding than that in a private school. When I rode the bus to the local parochial high school, my classmates and I observed that the public schools attendants from our neighborhood never had any books to bring home and never had any homework. (I lived in a working class white neighborhood, which is now becoming “diverse”.) If a black ghetto kid at the top of his/her class in a public school wins a voucher lotter to the private school, he/she might suddenly find him/herself at the bottom of the barrel when he is given a new set of more educated classmates.

    There is no hard data in this article. I would like to see a comparison, for instance, of the standardized test scores (SAT, perhaps?) for ghetto public schools kids and kids from the same neighborhood who are in private schools courtesy of vouchers. I would also like to see in said comparison the ages of the kids when they transferred to private schools and how long they have been there.

    • Replies: @Triumph104
  22. @enemy of earth

    “I am strongly opposed to vouchers because if you take their money (and I know it’s really our money) then you have to accept the strings that may come with the money. When we sent them to private schools we wanted them at a school which would not compromise their principles in order to get some federal dollars. ” This is precisely why we send our high schooler to Hillsdale (College) Academy, and will our others when that age. It is also why, even though I have taught 17/22 years in a public school and know how poor most are and won’t ever send any of mine to a PS, I was against DeVos’ voucher initiative in 2000 and would still oppose such measures today. If anything, I hope that Trump starves the Dept of Ed and gives decision making back to states and localities, exclusively.

  23. @enemy of earth

    Dear “enemy of earth”:
    You wrote about your eldest son

    He’s kind of a genius.

    Can you quantify that statement ?
    With best wishes to all members of your undoubtedly remarkable family,

  24. David says:

    Off topic question. Why does the amazingly stupid article, “What Race Were the Greeks and Romans?,” always show up on the homepage?

    • Replies: @Wade
  25. I have a brother in law who was a teacher and then administrator in the public schools of a large mid western city for 40 years until he retired. He lived through the forced bussing and the federal takeover of the school system. When I asked him about No Child Left Behind he said it was an attack on public education. When education was funded locally we had good schools and not so good schools. Now pretty much all our schools are crap. Return education to local control and local funding or just go ahead and create corporate schools on the model of corporate prisons.

  26. @Gene Su

    Kevin Carey is talking about standardized test scores not grades. I see that you went to parochial schools and you are exhibiting your lack of familiarity with public schools. Even though they are in private schools, most voucher students are required to take annual standardized exams so their achievement can be measured. These are the same exams given in public school. The paying private school students do not take these exams.

    There is no such thing as putting a group of kids in a different school and raising their SAT scores. If you attended Phillips Exeter without passing their entrance exam, your SAT score wouldn’t magically rise to meet the average SAT score of Phillips Exeter students. SAT and, despite what some say, ACT scores are a measure if innate ability and can’t be altered for groups by even the best of education. Public school state exams measure achievement, so teaching or at least drilling produces results, although usually short-term.

    The group that scored in the 50th percentile were in public school, but a year later when they were in the next grade and voucher students at a private school, they only scored in the 26th percentile on the state public school exam.

    With the exception of Maine and Vermont, the kids who receive vouchers are special needs and low-income. These kids are not capable of learning normally. They require an onslaught of expensive resources to bring them anywhere near grade level. Private schools are not equipped to deal with these types of children.

    • Agree: jack ryan
  27. Tulip says:

    Vouchers are just a means to weaken the public employee unions.

    We all know test scores are not primarily driven by educational environment or educational spending or who owns the means of production. The latter is simply the ideological means of legitimating or de-legitimating vouchers, where both sides blather on about statistics in bad faith and Charles Murray’s name goes without mention.

  28. Agent76 says:

    Jan 23, 2017 Why Good Teachers Want School Choice

    Can every child receive a good education? With school choice and competition, yes. The problem? Powerful teachers unions oppose school choice. Rebecca Friedrichs, a public school teacher who took her case against the teachers union all the way to the Supreme Court, explains why school choice is the right choice.

  29. After “adjusting” the results they no longer show what they did. Figures don’t lie, but liars sure can figure.

  30. jack ryan says: • Website

    The brutal reality is that in education and so many things, nothing really works with the Black underclass.

    So many things that work ok, or fine like the Swedish welfare state in the 1960s, just don’t work with the Black underclass in places like Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago or Washington D.C.

    With free market education “vouchers” – the reality is that if we give them to millions of underclass inner city Black students they will use them to go to suburban formerly White schools and the Black underclass students will proceed to terrorize the White students and bring down education standards. The Libertarian free market fantasy world always denies that there are drastic differences in peoples.

    It’s like Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence where TJ just declares that “all people are created equal”.

    The reality is that the population of Somalia and inner city Detroit isn’t going to do very well in any education system.

    That’s life.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  31. Wade says:

    You found that the article was stupid after having read it, or that it any such article must be stupid prima facie that deals with a topic like that?

  32. woodNfish says:

    Fake news and fake research. Vouchers are the only way to go. Vouchers are needed to give parents school choice – any school they want even more expensive ones as long as they pay the difference, and to get rid of the teachers unions. I believe this is the system they have in Sweden where there are NO public schools, only private ones. One of the news magazines like 20-20 did a story on this some years back where they featured an high school student who bragged about his ability to speak 6 languages, which he learned at school and ended by him saying something like, “Try that in your American schools!” Yes, he was an arrogant little prick, but a very bright one too.

    The model for doing this has been around for many years, entrenched interests like the teachers unions and failing garbage news organizations like the NYT don’t want anyone to know about them, and so people don’t know about them.

  33. @jack ryan

    “The Libertarian free market fantasy world always denies that there are drastic differences in peoples. ”

    Got any cites for that?

    All the Libertarians I know merely deny that government has any business trying to fix those differences.

  34. OutWest says:

    The important aspect of school choice is choice. This will enhance the involvement of some parents in their children’s school. Teachers aren’t going to accomplish much without a good bit of supplemental home teaching.

    As an aside, it’s much more important to educate the bright students since they are the ones provid9ng jobs for the less apt students.

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