CEP report finds no clear benefit from school vouchers

school vouchers

According to the independent non-profit Center on Education Policy (CEP), a review of the past decade of research on school vouchers has found "no clear advantage in academic achievement," and mixed outcomes overall, for students who attend private schools using vouchers.

The report, "Keeping Informed about School Vouchers: A Review of Major Developments and Research," [PDF file] reviews and summarizes major studies on school vouchers from the past decade, and also summarizes current publicly funded school founder programs.

According to the report, the scope of voucher programs and proposals has broadened over the past decade beyond serving just low-income students in low-performing schools to serving middle-income or suburban families. "In expanding voucher programs to middle- and higher-income families and suburban families, policymakers risk alienating those who support vouchers as a means to improve education for low-income urban students," the authors write.

In general, the report finds, several prominent voucher studies released since 2000, examining voucher programs in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., have concluded that achievement gains for students receiving publicly funded vouchers are similar to those for comparable public school students.

"We have a great body of research about the effects of vouchers that policymakers should draw on to inform current debates," study co-author Alexandra Usher said in a statement. "Before state legislators and Congress move quickly to enact new voucher programs, they should consider the evidence from programs already in place for several years to ensure they understand the impacts their policies would have."

The report notes that many recent voucher studies have been carried out or sponsored by pro-voucher organizations, and recommends steps to ensure that studies are designed, conducted and reported in an objective manner.

"We were surprised to find so many studies done by pro-voucher groups," study co-author Nancy Kober said in a statement. "While this doesn't mean researchers with definite positions on vouchers can't be objective, it speaks to the need for outside scrutiny of study methods and guidance from objective expert panels."

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