Northwestern University researcher David Figlio has released his sixth annual report on Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program. Figlio conducts this research through a contract with the Florida Department of Education (DOE).
Tax credit scholarship students are required to take a DOE-approved standardized test every year, and their results are sent to Figlio for analysis. Most students take the Stanford Achievement Test (57.7 percent), but the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (22.5 percent) and Terra Nova (12.1 percent) are also popular.
The 2011-12 school year results, which are covered in this latest report, are similar to what Figlio found in his four previous studies (the first report created the baseline year). In terms of the scholarship students’ characteristics, he reports they tend to “come from less advantaged families than other students receiving free or reduced-price lunches … come from lower-performing public schools prior to entering the program … be among the lowest-performing students in their prior school, regardless of the performance level of their public school.” As he has in prior years, Figlio also found that “the tendency for the weakest prior performers on standardized tests to choose to participate in the FTC Program is becoming stronger over time.”
Figlio reported scholarship students returning to district schools also “tend to be those who were struggling the most in their private schools.” Apparently parents are more apt to change schools when their children are struggling academically, which makes sense.
The typical scholarship student “scored at the 46th national percentile in reading and the 45th percentile in mathematics, about the same as in the last several years.” These year-over-year achievement gains show “the typical student participating in the program gained a year’s worth of learning in a year’s worth of time.” This is significant because the national comparison group is comprised of students from all income levels. Usually low-income students lose ground when compared to the annual gains of more affluent students.
Figlio makes reference to a separate study he conducted that shows the tax credit scholarship program is improving the achievement of public school students: “There exists compelling causal evidence indicating that the FTC Scholarship Program has led to modest and statistically significant improvements in public school performance across the state.”
Figlio concludes his report by stating that, “a cautious read of the weight of the available evidence suggests that the FTC Scholarship Program has boosted student performance in public schools statewide, that the program draws disproportionately low-income, poorly performing students from the public schools into the private schools, and that the students who moved perform as well or better once they move to the private schools.”
The full report can be found on the Department of Education website: http://www.floridaschoolchoice.org/pdf/FTC_Research_2011-12_report.pdf