Dominion of New York

Social Justice

August 23, 2012

Study: School Vouchers Raise Black College Enrollment 24%

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Written by: Kelly Virella

A Bronx High School Graduation

A Bronx High School Graduation Photo by Flickr/Runs With Scissors


upporters of school vouchers say they have a new arrow in their quiver, a study showing that black students who received them as part of a program that began in 1998 outperformed those who didn’t. The African-American students who received vouchers through a lottery held by the New York School Choice Scholarship Foundation attended college more than those who didn’t win the lottery, two researchers reported today in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Black lottery winners enrolled in college 24 percent more than lottery losers.

The op-ed writers conclude that Obama should start supporting school vouchers, saying:

President Obama is certainly correct to identify the particularly steep educational barriers that African-American students must surmount if they are to become college-ready. And he seems to have nothing against private school per se, as he has long sent his own daughters to private schools. Yet—apparently thanks to opposition to vouchers from powerful teachers unions—the president still hasn’t taken the next step and helped open private-school doors for low-income children as well.

But there is much research showing that giving students vouchers doesn’t raise their achievement, according to a 2011 report by Center on Education policy.(PDF)

  • Students in grades 3-8 who participated in the Milwaukee voucher program had rates of achievement growth over three years that were similar to those of a random sample of Milwaukee public school students with analogous characteristics, according to a comprehensive study by the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) at the University of Arkansas.
  • When adjustments were made for students’ prior achievement, mobility, and minority status, the overall achievement of students who participated for several years in the Cleveland voucher program did not differ significantly from that of comparable public school students, according to a long-term evaluation by Indiana University researchers.
  • A reanalysis of test data from the Cleveland program by researchers at the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education found no academic advantages for voucher users in Cleveland.
  • Low-income students who were awarded private school vouchers through the Washington, D.C. program showed no significant differences in reading and math achievement from a control group of students who did not receive voucher awards, according to a study conducted by researchers from several organizations and universities for the U.S. Department of Education. Although females and higher- achieving students did appear to have higher levels of reading achievement if they received a voucher, the researchers noted that these findings could be due to chance.

In Louisiana, where Republican Governor Bobby Jindal is imposing a massive statewide school privatization plan, some of the private schools now enrolling students are top-notch, offering what Reuters calls a “rich menu of advanced placement courses, college-style seminars and lush grounds.”

But because the regulations are lax, some schools are using dubious curricula like that of Bob Jones University Press. Mother Jones notes that this curriculum teaches things like the KKK had some virtues.

An excerpt from the 20o1 Bob Jones University Press textbook United States History for Christian Schools, 3rd ed., says:  “[The Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross. Klan targets were bootleggers, wife-beaters, and immoral movies. In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.”

The curricula aren’t the only problem. Reuters reports that:

The [Louisiana] school willing to accept the most voucher students — 314 — is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.

Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White defended the schools in an interview with Reuters. “To me, it’s a moral outrage that the government would say, ‘We know what’s best for your child,'” White said. “Who are we to tell parents we know better?”

About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


A student at Ocean Hill Collegiate Middle School. Photo by Jessica Campbell
The outdoor plaza at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of OlivierJD.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Renato Ganoza

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