Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, April 5, 2010

School voucher study results to be released Wednesday

Reports on the third-year evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program will be released in Madison on Wednesday, April 7.

The reports on growth, school switching, testing, integration and other measures of the 20-year-old program will be released by the evaluation team at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in Room 313 of the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

The evaluation team includes Professor John Witte of the UW-Madison's La Follette School of Public Affairs; Patrick Wolf, Jeffery Dean, Jonathan Mills and Brian Kisida, all of the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas; Joshua Cowen of the University of Kentucky; David Fleming of Furman University; Meghan Condon of UW-Madison; and Thomas Stewart of Qwaku & Associates.

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 2007-08 was $6,607, and approximately 20,000 children used vouchers to attend 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 rates. The former will be primarily accomplished by measuring and estimating student growth in achievement as measured by the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations in math and reading in grades three through eight during a five-year period.

The general research design consists of a comparison between a random sample of Milwaukee Parental Choice Program students and a matched sample of Milwaukee Public Schools students.

The second-year report, released in 2009, showed that almost all comparisons indicated there was no overall statistically significant difference between Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and Milwaukee Public Schools student achievement growth in math or reading one year after the programs were carefully matched to each other. Average achievement growth in the choice panel tended to be somewhat higher than average achievement growth in the public schools panel, especially in math, but those differences failed to reach the normal 95 percent certainty level for statistical significance.

None of the authors can comment on the third-year findings until Wednesday's release of the report, which 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 and is staffed by leading school choice researchers and scholars.

Led by Wolf and Witte, the group's 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 child's school.