Education expert Diane Ravitch wrote in a Jan. 11 op-ed that Milwaukee should abandon its long-running school choice programs involving private and public charter schools and instead concentrate all education resources on a single, monopolistic public school system.
The actual research on school choice in Milwaukee argues against such a move. At the request of the State of Wisconsin, we led a five-year study of school choice in Milwaukee that ended last February. We found that school choice in Milwaukee has had a modest but clearly positive effect on student outcomes.
First, students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice (“voucher”) Program graduated from high school and both enrolled and persisted in four-year colleges at rates that were four to seven percentage points higher than a carefully matched set of students in Milwaukee Public Schools. Using the most conservative 4% voucher advantage from our study, that means that the 801 students in ninth grade in the voucher program in 2006 included 32 extra graduates who wouldn’t have completed high school and gone to college if they had instead been required to attend MPS.
Second, the addition of a high-stakes accountability testing requirement to the voucher program in 2010 resulted in a solid increase in voucher student test scores, leaving the voucher students with significantly higher achievement gains in reading than their matched MPS peers. Ravitch claimed in a Nov. 5 blog post that private schools no longer have to administer the state accountability test to their voucher students and post the results, but that assertion is and always was false.
Notes and links on school choice in Milwaukee. Comparing Milwaukee Public Schools and Voucher school per student spending.