Here's an overview in quotes from the article:
"A Republican-controlled Congress established the voucher program, for Grades K through 12, in 2004. Over the last three years it has provided scholarships of up to $7,500 annually to cover tuition, fees and transportation expenses for each of about 1,800 poor children to attend private school. About 90 percent of the participating students have been African-American, and an additional 9 percent Hispanic, according to the Congressionally mandated study.
The results were eagerly awaited, because studies of similar programs elsewhere, in cities including Cleveland, Milwaukee and Dayton, had not produced definitive conclusions about whether vouchers significantly increased the academic achievement of students who previously attended public schools."However:
"Students who participated in the first year of the District of Columbia’s federally financed school voucher program did not show significantly higher math or reading achievement, but their parents were satisfied anyway, viewing the private schools they attended at taxpayer expense as safer and better than public schools, according to an Education Department study released yesterday. The students themselves painted a picture different from that of their parents, though, feeling neither more satisfied nor safer than did students attending public schools."
"Parents of students using the vouchers were significantly more likely to give the school their child attended a grade of A or B than were parents of students rejected by the lottery, the study found. Joseph P. Viteritti, a professor of public policy at Hunter College, said those findings were consistent with studies of other voucher programs.
“To me,” Mr. Viteritti said, “it just means that parents are happy to have a choice.”
But Clive R. Belfield, an economics professor at the City University of New York who has studied voucher programs, noted the new report’s finding that of the 1,027 students who entered the Washington program in the fall of 2004, only 788 remained in it by the fall of 2006.
“That’s quite a bit of attrition,” Mr. Belfield said. “If parents are so satisfied, why have about 20 percent of the students left the program?”"These are interesting questions because it almost points to a parent's ability to feel some control over their child's schooling seems to be almost as important as the child actually doing better. Maybe those parents felt so hopeless about their child's school that any change was viewed as better. But what about the student viewpoint? It seems like that would be important in creating change. If the student changed schools and still felt unsafe or felt the teaching wasn't working, that's just as big an issue as parents' concerns.
It's interesting for SPS because we do have so much choice and I think parents, for better or worse, do feel a measure of control over where their child goes to school. We're likely to hear more about this (although it's probably way down on the agenda) during the Presidential election as most Republicans want charters and vouchers. I have no doubt that the issue of charters in Washington State is likely to come back to the ballot in the next couple of years.