American Federation for Children Response to IES Study

Today, the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, released the following statement after the publication of a first year study of the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Statement from Tommy Schultz, National Communications Director for the American Federation for Children

The IES report on the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program needs to be considered in context. These findings are related to the test scores of students after only one year in the program. Data from a meta-analysis of the participant effects of private school vouchers illustrates that the effect of vouchers on participating students’ academic achievement in both reading and math tends to start out neutral or negative in year one and trends to positive by years two or three of the program. We know from the body of school choice research on the experimental effects on test scores that short term test scores may not be predictive of long term achievement or attainment.

Additionally, the sample size is much smaller than the sample size of the previous long-term evaluation and is heavily skewed toward young students. Student test scores are quite volatile in Kindergarten and first grade and 36 percent of the study participants are in those two grades. A quarter of the entire sample size is in Kindergarten alone.

Beyond test scores the evaluation did find that the DC OSP program had a “statistically significant positive impact on parents’ perceptions of safety at the school their child attends in that first year.” And as well, for “parents of students in grades 6-12, the program had a statistically significant positive impact on involvement in education-related activities at home.”

We know from the previous OSP evaluation (2010) that 91 percent of children who used their opportunity scholarships graduated from high school, 21 percent higher than those who were offered, but did not receive a scholarship. Recent data compiled by the program administrator shows a 2015-2016 graduation rate of 98 percent. 86 percent of these students were accepted into a 2-or-4 year college with 5 percent entering the military or technical school. 6,600 children from low-income families have been awarded scholarships out of nearly 20,000 that have applied since the program began. Parents clearly support the program.