Students in Ohio’s private school voucher program make less academic progress than their peers in public schools. But the program has a positive effect on public school performance, perhaps because it spurs competition. While the program is aimed at mostly disadvantaged students from struggling public schools, it tends to attract the better-off students within that group.
In short, the key findings from a new, deep dive into the Buckeye State’s EdChoice program undercut some of the usual talking points on both sides of the school choice debate.
The report, published last week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is the first study of Ohio’s largest voucher program based on individual test results. The study looked at data through the 2012-13 school year for a program that serves some 18,000 students.
The research was done by David Figlio, a researcher who’s well known in Florida school choice circles and previously performed evaluations of Florida’s tax credit scholarship program*, along with Krzysztof Karbownik, a postdoctoral research fellow at Northwestern University.
Their findings have implications not just for Ohio, but for private school choice programs in other parts of the country. Here’s a look at what the study found, and why it matters.
Ohio’s voucher program is targeted at students who attend public schools that score low in the state accountability system. Students who use vouchers tend to be economically disadvantaged, but compared to students who qualify for vouchers, the ones who actually use the program tend to be better off, both academically and socioeconomically.