Monday, April 06, 2009

Smothering results that school vouchers work

The Department of Education allowed Congress to kill off a pilot program in the District of Columbia even though the latest federal research shows that the program is already achieving results. And, certainly not by coincidence, the Department of Education didn't release the results of that research until after Congress had safely sunsetted the program. As the WSJ writes,
It's bad enough that Democrats are killing a program that parents love and is closing the achievement gap between poor minorities and whites. But as scandalous is that the Education Department almost certainly knew the results of this evaluation for months.

Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.

Opponents of school choice for poor children have long claimed they'd support vouchers if there was evidence that they work. While running for President last year, Mr. Obama told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that if he saw more proof that they were successful, he would "not allow my predisposition to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn . . . You do what works for the kids." Except, apparently, when what works is opposed by unions.

Mr. Duncan's office spurned our repeated calls and emails asking what and when he and his aides knew about these results. We do know the Administration prohibited anyone involved with the evaluation from discussing it publicly. You'd think we were talking about nuclear secrets, not about a taxpayer-funded pilot program. A reasonable conclusion is that Mr. Duncan's department didn't want proof of voucher success to interfere with Senator Dick Durbin's campaign to kill vouchers at the behest of the teachers unions.

The decision to let 1,700 poor kids get tossed from private schools is a moral disgrace. It also exposes the ugly politics that lies beneath union and liberal efforts across the country to undermine mayoral control, charter schools, vouchers or any reform that threatens their monopoly over public education dollars and jobs. The Sheldon Silver-Dick Durbin Democrats aren't worried that school choice doesn't work. They're worried that it does, and if Messrs. Obama and Duncan want to succeed as reformers they need to say so consistently.
Andrew Coulson sums up the results, after three years, of the program.
The latest federal study of the D.C. voucher program finds that voucher students have pulled significantly ahead of their public school peers in reading and perform at least as well as public school students in math. It also reports that the average tuition at the voucher schools is $6,620. That is ONE QUARTER what the District of Columbia spends per pupil on education ($26,555), according to the District’s own fiscal year 2009 budget.

Better results at a quarter the cost. And Democrats in Congress have sunset its funding and are trying to kill it. Shame on them.
I wonder how many other federally funded education programs show results like that? President Obama has said that he would be guided by results, not ideology. Horsefeathers! Here are results that show steady progress in reading by the students receiving the vouchers and the President and his party, despite their fine words about wanting to examine the evidence just don't care. Senator Durbin, the sponsor of the provision killing the program claimed to want to see the evidence that the program worked. Well, Senator. What do you say now about these results?
The Department of Education has been funding a multiyear random-assignment study of the program’s impact. In the most recent evaluation, participating students showed gains equivalent to 3.7 months’ worth of additional reading achievement, a statistically significant difference from the control group.

This is typical of random-assignment studies of voucher achievement. Students do not instantly bolt ahead of their peers. Instead, they make steady progress over time until the difference between participants and non-participants becomes statistically significant. After the fourth year of the program, the differences would grow steadily larger.
How convenient it is that the Department of Education waited until after the program was killed to release these results. And how typical that the Democrats and President Obama didn't wait a few weeks to decide the fate of the program until after the results had come out.

You know that, if this were a program that the teachers unions supported, the Democrats would be pouring billions into it and talking about expanding it across the nation instead of smothering it in the cradle. Once you realize that union opposition is the only reason why these Democrats have taken the position they have on the program, you know all you need to know about their fine rhetoric about school reform and wanting to put evidence ahead of ideology.


master.of.disaster said...

School vouchers (and charter schools) "work", if you only look at the schools themselves, and not at the wider context.

Only the brightest students, or the most motivated parents can get into these type of privileged schools. That removes some of the cream from the public schools, and further concentrates the most expensive and difficult educational problems into the public system.

Charter and voucher schools only "work" to the extent that they externalize some of the cost of education. And they don't externalize it to society in general (which would be bad enough). They externalize the costs to their rival, the public school system.

I'd be in favor of vouchers and charter schools, if they had to take their fair share of difficult and expensive students to go along with the easy cases.

I'd be in favor of vouchers and charter schools if they did something to help all students, not just the ones able to take advantage of a free ride at the expense of everyone else.

captain cryptic said...

What you say has merit however shouldn't the cream, as you call them , have an opportunity to excel ?
Furthermore if vouchers were to become readily available who's to say that schools specializing in difficult students wouldn't spring up . I think that sounds preferable to the one size fits all approach we now have.

Pat Patterson said...

What "free ride?" In California everyone pays for public education even parents who place their children in private schools. The charter school nearest the school I work at has almost an identical cross section of students except it doesn't have Special Day Classes which is not all that unusual as many public schools do not mainstream the physically and mentally handicapped. But what they do have is teachers that have taken a pay cut, longer hours and students that are often no more eager to work then those in the public schools. And with nothing near the same selection of class offerings or facilities as the public schools.

What used to be called enriched, advanced or college prep in high schools were normally only available on selected campuses and admission was based on a combination of grades, tests and in some cases economic or racial factors. Nothing really has changed except the whining about these schools has gotten louder for the simple reason that many of the teachers look upon these assignments as an escape from the clutches of the unions and the special interests groups that currently run the schools.

Albert Shanker, the former head of the UFT then its succesor organization the AFT once remarked, I'm paraphrasing, that his job was to represent the teachers but if the students formed a union he would probably have to oppose them because it would mean a loss of clout for the union. Shanker, BTW, attended NY's Stuyvesant High School which at that time was considered one of the best in the area because it only admitted the sons and daughters of the poorest families but who had the highest grade and test scores in the city. That sounds exactly like one of those new fangled charter schools except that this was during the Depression.

tfhr said...

"I'd be in favor of vouchers and charter schools, if...."

"I'd be in favor of vouchers and charter schools if ...."

No, m.o.d., you would be in favor of vouchers if it was your child. Put yourself in the shoes of any mother or father of a child imprisoned in DC public schools and then try and qualify it with your "if".

" ride at the expense of everyone else." m.o.d., you have no idea what the real, long term cost is to a child that will not have a fighting chance for success because they are condemned to one of the worst school systems in the country. Send your kids to DC public schools and then come back here and preach. Better yet, call up Mrs. Obama and ask her to explain why she does not send her children to DC schools. (hint: she is not insane and does not have to send them there because she has money)

Locomotive Breath said...

We've had "No child left behind". It's time for a little "No child held back". Sticking the brightest kids in the class with the not so bright kids is a certain recipe for ending up with adults not one of whom knows how to keep the lights on.

Jaw Bone said...

Sorry guys - you're advocating even more of the "me first and screw the rest of you" failed GOP policies. The rest of the country has rejected that in a landslide.

You can keep playing by the old failed rules. The rest of us are working cooperatively to better America as a whole. That means rejecting "solutions" that actually are a gain for some at the expense of a loss for more.

Good luck with your bunker mentality, and enjoy life in the armed compound. Get plenty of fresh air.

Locomotive Breath said...

Hey Jaw Bone. In your utopian future, after everyone has been dragged down to the same level, good luck finding a doctor or an engineer.

tfhr said...


So typical of you to disregard the future of children unfortunate enough to live in failed school districts.

Betsy pointed out that vouchers have achieved tremendous results for children living in the District of Columbia at 25% of the cost per student. Imagine what could be done for these children with the money saved through voucher programs. Most important of all, parents that cannot afford to send their children to high priced schools like the Obamas have done with their girls, can find good schools for their kids thanks to vouchers.

Aren't you going to spew at the Obamas for sending their children to a good school? Why not? Doesn't it anger you that Michelle Obama has done for her children what any mother would do if she had the money? Why shouldn't the residents of the District of Columbia have the same concern and be ABLE TO ACT on it?

The bottom line is that your ridiculous and shameful adherence to failed liberal policy that puts the interests of unions far ahead of students is an embarrassment for it's disregard for parents, wasteful abuse of school funding, and worst of all, the great harm it does to disadvantaged minority children that have very little chance, beyond education, of lifting themselves clear from crushing poverty imposed on them courtesy of generations of Democrat rule (and abuse) in places like Washington, DC.

Jaw Bone said...

Loco - please don't put words into my mouth, because you are invariably wrong when you do that. This isn't about "dragging down".

If anything, the greedy people who shove their way in at the front of the queue and grab resources at the expense of other people are doing the "dragging down". That would be you, the chartists, and the voucher supporters.

The majority of America has spoken decisively, and rejected the policies of the Greedy Old Party. You can no longer get ahead by taking more than your fair share. That's all a charter school or a voucher-taking school is - a way to selectively funnel more money from the public coffers to people who already have some good advantages.

Sorry. From now on, no more greedy grabbers.

Locomotive Breath said...

"people who already have some good advantages"

Yeah people who bothered to take care of their kids and send them to school well fed ready to learn. These are typically the people who are also paying all the taxes that fund the education system in the first place. Let's make sure all the kids are dumbed down to the level of the least capable kid in the class and no one realizes their full potential. Instead, let's give all the resources to the kids who are not going to succeed no matter how much money you spend. There's a recipe for success.

Washington DC has nearly the highest per capita spending and the worst performance. Surely "The Chosen One" sends his kids there. Oh hell no. They're in the expensive and exclusive private school.

Back when I used to be a prof, ADA required that a learning disabled or ADD student could get twice as much time to complete a test as everyone else. Of course, this fact would be nowhere found on their transcript. The half as capable student would get the same grade as a fully capable student. Must be Obama's "spread the wealth around" in action.

What I wish for you Jaw Bone is, in a few years, for you to go in for your quadruple bypass and have the surgeon look down on you and say "This procedure should only take three hours, but because I'm ADD and lose focus it takes me twice as long. Even though you shouldn't have to, I hope you can withstand the anesthesia for that length of time". Only then when it is too late, as the opiates take effect, will you understand.

p.s. "No more greedy grabbers". Oh the irony. Great. I agree. Let's always reward people based on their actual productivity and usefulness. Including students. If you're capable of learning more, let's devote the resources to teach you more. What a concept!!

Pat Patterson said...

Actually Jaw Bone may have stumbled upon a solution. Nationally teachers admit that they are sendng some 21.5% of their children to private schools, charters, et al vs the national average of 12.2%. In LA its 24.5% vs 15.7%, in Washington DC its 26.8% vs 19.8% and finally in NYC its 32.5% vs 22.7%.

So maybe Jaw Bone would want all those greedy people to be forced to leave their children in public schools as long as they teach in public schools. And a slight bit of trivia in that some of the charter members of those greedy grabbers were two active Democrats in Milwaukee, Polly Williams and Joan Huff. While the Cleveland voucher program was pushed for years by the late Fannie Lewis who had pushed for years for vouchers and faced NEA sponsored Democrats in the primaries every year as punishment.

equitus said...

Jaw certainly seems to be a selfish and mean-spirited person. Why does he want to remove the one chance the poor DC students have to a better life? Shameful. But reading his posts is a good dose of reality about what the Dems are all about.

Jaw Bone said...

Come on guys - if you have some thoughtful counter-arguments, let's hear them.

Making remarks like these just embarrasses yourselves.

"seems to be a selfish and mean-spirited person."

"call up Mrs. Obama and ask her to explain why she does not send her children to DC schools."

"dragged down to the same level"

"spew at the Obamas".

There's a lot of hatred, bile, and envy coming out there. But nothing practical, intelligent or thoughtful that addresses the points I made.

Pat Patterson said...

"Greedy grabbers," deserves a reasoned reponse? Who Knew that was what passed for nuanced thinking among the left today?

Jaw Bone said...

Perhaps you completely (or selectively) overlooked the paragraph before that one, Pat?

The deafening silence speaks volumes.

Pat Patterson said...

Actually I did ignore it because of its sweeping platitudes and lack of specific programs. Claims of "failed rules", the "me firsts" and the bunker mentality sound more like the rations for the people of Leningrad during World War II then the framework to begin a debate.

Aside from actually dismantling some voucher programs and the promise to spend even more federal funds with less accountability what exactly are the Democrats offering aside from a jobs program for teachers and administrators or even giving over the power to run schools to a mayor as opposed to directly elected school boards?

tfhr said...

Jaw Bone,

"envy"? I'm not getting that here but I do see a lot of anger here that children are being denied better educational opportunities in order to kow-tow to the unions.

Tell me, Jaw Bone, which is more important, the survival of unions and wasteful government or the education of children? Where is your priority? Where would you send your children to school? Sidwell Friends or Anacostia? Don't know? Then maybe you should bail out of this discussion.

Jaw Bone said...

Sigh. Always with the invective. Very unconvincing.

Pat Patterson said...

That is fairly rich coming from someone who's first comment was basically charging anyone who was in favor of vouchers as being, " first and screw the rest of you." Or did we miss the nuance of that well-thought screed?

tfhr said...

Jaw Bone,

Sigh. Always with the evasion. You still won't say which is more important: satisfying unions or a child's educational needs.