Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

School choice evaluation results to be released

Reports on the fourth-year evaluation of school choice in Milwaukee will be released in Madison Wednesday, March 30.

Rigorous studies of the achievement growth of voucher and charter students, the educational attainment of voucher students, participating voucher schools and other measures of the 20-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and independent public charter schools will be released by the evaluation team in room 313 of the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Presenters will include John Witte of the University Wisconsin-Madison's La Follette School of Public Affairs; Patrick Wolf and Brian Kisida of the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas; Joshua Cowen of the University of Kentucky; and David Fleming of Furman University.

The Wisconsin Legislature authorized the evaluation in 2005 to learn how well the program, the oldest and largest urban educational voucher program in the United States, is working. The maximum voucher amount in 2009-10 was $6,442, and more than 20,000 children used vouchers to attend public, or secular or religious private schools.

The general purposes of the evaluation are to analyze the effectiveness of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program in terms of longitudinal student achievement growth and grade attainment, drop-out rates, and high school graduation. Longitudinal student achievement growth will be measured by the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations in math and reading in grades three through eight over a five-year period.

The general research design consists of a comparison between a random sample of voucher and charter students and a matched sample of Milwaukee Public School students.

Previous reports in the series have found no overall statistically significant difference between Choice and public school student achievement growth in math or reading one or two years after they were carefully matched to each other. A supporting study did find that MPS students are performing slightly better on tests due to competitive pressure from the Choice program.

For the first time the researchers will report findings regarding the effect of the Choice program on rates of high school graduation and college enrollment. They also will discuss the effect of independent charter schools in Milwaukee on student achievement growth. Finally, they will update previous reports on achievement growth in the Choice program and the participating choice schools by adding 2009-2010 data to those studies.

None of the authors can comment on the third year findings until the release of the report Wednesday. It will be posted on the project's web site.

The School Choice Demonstration Project is an education research center devoted to the non-partisan study of the effects of school choice policy.Led by Wolf and including Witte, the national team of researchers, institutional research partners and staff are devoted to the rigorous evaluation of school choice programs and other school improvement efforts across the country. The program is committed to raising and advancing the public's understanding of the strengths and limitations of school choice policies and programs by conducting comprehensive research on what happens to students, families, schools and communities when more parents are allowed to choose their children's schools.

Study results to show effect of school choice on graduation, college enrollment, March 29, 2011, University of Wisconsin-Madison News

Evaluation of school voucher program finds students achieving at same level as peers, April 7, 2010, La Follette School News