Voucher students who left a low-performing Louisiana school for a private school did worse academically — especially in math — than classmates who stayed, concludes a new working paper on the first year of the Lousiana Scholarship Program.
Younger children did the worst, according to the team of Berkeley, Duke and MIT researchers.
Catholic schools serving black students — most with declining enrollment — signed up most of the voucher students. “Struggling private schools may opt in to the voucher program to combat stagnating enrollment,” the researchers noted.
One third of voucher students attend low-performing private schools that “have been barred from taking new voucher students,” reported the Times-Picayune last year.
It could be a short-term effect, but “the size of the negative math impact is pretty large,” Patrick Wolf, a University of Arkansas education professor told the Times-Picayune. Wolf’s two-year study of the voucher program will be published soon. “The results are different in interesting ways,” he said.
Louisiana’s voucher program, which is the fifth-largest in the country, provides about 6,700 students with about $5,300 per student. Only students from families with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty line – meaning $60,625 for a family of four, for example – and those whose public school has been labeled by the state as low-performing qualify for the voucher.
“A broader set of evidence” shows positive effects for vouchers, said Wolf. He cited a 2012 evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program which found higher high school graduation and college enrollment rates.