Not that it was unexpected, but hey....
...At issue is whether the program has appreciably helped the students who are given places in private schools, as well whether it has hurt the students who stay in public schools.
The soon-to-be-published paper, by a Harvard University-trained economist who is now at the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Rajashri Chakrabarti, answers the second question with a solid no. Ms. Chakrabarti argues that two major changes in the program pushed public schools to improve after 1999.
...Ms. Chakrabarti's analysis compares Milwaukee schools from which students left via vouchers to public schools outside the city with similar demographics that did not participate in the program. She found only small relative improvements in the Milwaukee schools' reading, language arts, and math scores prior to the two changes, but describes "a different picture" after they took effect, with affected public schools showing bigger improvements. She also found improvements in science and social studies, which were not tested until the late 1990s
John Witte, who has studied Milwaukee extensively, is a bit chary about Chakrabarti's paper, however:
"Changes of superintendents, changes of school boards, changes of curriculum — the list of other things that could have an effect is as long as your arm," Mr. Witte said
According to that [a Witte] analysis, only charter schools spurred a competitive improvement in public schools, and that effect was small, Mr. Witte said.
But an education professor at the University of Arkansas, Jay Greene, praised Ms. Chakrabarti's design, saying it appeared to control for outside variables carefully. He characterized previous studies by Ms. Chakrabarti as having been fair, drawing both favorable and unfavorable conclusions about vouchers.
It DOES seem that all studies indicate that there is an improvement in MPS' education--whether or not it was caused by "choice" is in some dispute.
But we'll take the gain no matter how it got there.
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You are right- any improvement is a good thing.
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