"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Voucher Lies

With this lameduck neo-con agenda soon moving to life support and all of its indicted and un-indicted quackers either "scooting" off to court or to their lawyers' offices, we, nonetheless, can expect the horror show to continue long past the point when viewers would expect the final awful scene to have been perpetrated. And no doubt it will take decades to repair the damage that has been done domestically and internationally by this group of arrogant fools.

Showing evidence that the neocons propaganda team is demonstrating a further breakdown of verisimilitude during this uncommonly disgraceful denouement, John Tierney recently let fly in the Times with one of his most disgusting Bush League education oops-ed yet. The message: vouchers are working, and they are good for public education.

Lie # 1: Vouchers are working.
Tierney's go-to guy for research on vouchers is Joseph Viteritti, who never saw a voucher program he could complain about. Viteritti, sticking to the neocon strategy, simply refutes the truth and sticks with it:
"All the good research, including the voucher opponents' work, shows that kids who accept vouchers are doing at least as well as their public school peers," says Joseph Viteritti of Hunter College. "That's remarkable, considering how much less money is being spent on the voucher students."
One must guess that "good research" meets the essential criteria of substantiating the pre-conceived conclusions of voucher proponents, much like the bogus manipulations of Harvard's Paul Petersen's "research" showing big gains by voucher students was, indeed. With Petersen claim for superior results debunked, Viteritti and Tierney are left the claim that voucher student test results are at least as good, then, which may be a less dramatic lie--but still a lie.

There are, indeed, rigorous research studies showing that voucher school students and other private school students score lower on standardized tests than public school students. Here are a few assembled by NSBA:

NSBA reviews a 2003 evaluation of the Cleveland voucher program
NSBA looks at the findings of a 2003 study on Florida's McKay Voucher Program.

New study on Cleveland voucher program from CUNY (January 2006)
Researcher Clive Belfield examines the Cleveland voucher program in this 31-page study.
. . . voucher programs show very modest gains in achievement for recipients; and studies highlight the many potential biases when identifying the treatment impacts of vouchers. Turning to the Cleveland program, we find a number of practical similarities between the CSTP and other voucher programs in terms of demand and supply. Overall, we find no academic advantages for voucher users; in fact, users appear to perform slightly worse in math. These results do not vary according to: adjustments for prior ability; intention-to-treat versus treatment effects; and dosage differences. Contrary to claims for other voucher programs, the CSTP is not differentially effective for African American students.
New study reveals public schools outperform private schools on national math exam (January 2006)
University of Illinois researchers find that after controlling for socio-economic differences, public schools outperform private schools. The researchers examined results from the 2003 NAEP Math for the study.
Survey: No advantage in voucher schools (Plain Dealer, 11-19-05)
New study mirrors findings of previous evaluation.
Study: No Academic Gains From Vouchers for Black Students (Education Week, April 9)
A new study of a privately funded voucher program in New York City counters the claims by another researcher about large academic gains for voucher students. The original study did not include scores for a substantial number of students in the program, according to the new review. This article also contains links to each study.

Bottom line: We know that voucher schools are doing no better, and in some cases, they are doing worse. Is this not reason enough to work to fix the publicly-controlled system we have? Does it make sense to remove the control of our children's education from the public sphere, and to use public dollars to support the religious indoctrination of our children? Would you support the offering of tax dollars to support a school run by witches or skinheads?

Lie # 2: Vouchers are good for public education. Response Coming Soon . . stand by

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