Panel: The Effects of Private School Choice Policies on High School Graduation, College Enrollment, and Degree Attainment

Friday, November 9, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Wilson B - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Patrick J. Wolf, University of Arkansas
Discussants:  Dan Goldhaber, University of Washington and Lindsey Burke, George Mason University

Experimentally Estimated Impacts of the New York School Choice Scholarships Foundation Program on College Degree Attainment: An Update
Albert Cheng1, Matthew Chingos2 and Paul E. Peterson1, (1)Harvard University, (2)Urban Institute

Do Voucher Students Attain Higher Levels of Education? Extended Evidence from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program
Patrick J. Wolf, University of Arkansas, John Witte, University of Wisconsin, Madison and Brian Kisida, University of Missouri

The Effects of the Louisiana Scholarship Program on High School Graduation and College Entrance
Heidi Holmes Erickson1, Jonathan N. Mills2 and Patrick J. Wolf1, (1)University of Arkansas, (2)Tulane University

Research on publicly funded school choice policies such as tax credit scholarships, vouchers, and charter schools has focused largely on measuring their impact on the test scores of students who use these policies to attend a school other than the traditional public school in their neighborhood. Test scores are a commonly used measure of student achievement, but critics worry that reliance on test score measures overly rewards schools that focus on teaching to the test at the expense of important student outcomes not measured by standardized tests. The opposite may also be true—successful schools may have positive impacts on students that are not adequately captured by test performance. Finally, test scores cannot be used to measure policy effects in high schools that do not administer annual tests. 


The handful of studies that have examined the long-term impact of publicly funded choice policies have found larger impacts on real-world outcomes such as high school graduation and college enrollment than the initial test-score evidence might have suggested. We propose to present results from a set of long-term follow-up studies of publicly funded voucher and tax-credit scholarship programs in Florida, Washington D.C., Louisiana, Milwaukee, and New York. All five programs have provided opportunities for low-income students in grades K-12 to obtain a scholarship to attend private schools.  These studies greatly expand our understanding of long-term effects of private school choice. This evidence will inform debates about whether to continue these programs and how their effectiveness might be maintained or improved. Second, this work will produce a broader set of “lessons learned” through examining multiple policies that differ in potentially important ways. These findings will be useful not just in the five study sites but also to policymakers around the country seeking to design school choice programs that increase the availability of high-quality educational opportunities.

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