Vouchers get more policy cred than they're worth
Pennsylvania policymakers are getting distracted by voucher programs and ignoring more effective strategies for education reform, says a new study from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association's Education Research and Policy Center. Noting the high number of "costly and nationally unprecedented voucher programs" under consideration in Pennsylvania, the study criticizes the weight policymakers give to voucher programs:
"Evidence that vouchers improve student outcomes is consistently inconsistent. Voucher proponents often point to modest improvements for certain subgroups of students in some situations as justification for a move toward vouchers. But the fact is that academic gains for voucher students have been sporadic at best. Further, because no voucher program has ever been attempted that is similar in scope to what is being proposed in Pennsylvania, assumptions related to impacts on students, community and public schooling itself could be nothing more than conjecture.
What is obvious after a look at the many analyses of voucher impacts is that time and time again, the promises made by supporters and proponents of voucher programs have failed to consistently materialize."
As a solution, the study urges state officials to focus reform efforts on areas "more firmly associated with school improvement," such as encouraging top teachers to stay at underperforming schools, developing stronger early childhood education programs, and supporting Out-of-School-Time programming.
Check out the full report here.