Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Great Voucher Fraud | Alternet

The Great Voucher Fraud | Alternet
"Despite the best efforts of “school choice” advocates to spin the effectiveness of vouchers, decades of accumulated evidence paints a different story: Vouchers do not improve educational outcomes, they take money away from struggling public schools, they’re cash cows for institutions offering questionable education, they aid students already attending private institutions and they ignore the needs of special-education students."
"Voucher advocates have become adept at employing several lobbying arms, all of which have the ability to curry favor with certain types of legislators.
Powerful groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation, Betsy DeVos’ American Federation of Children and other far-right groups that hate public services provide a rich funding stream for the voucher movement.
Organizations like these talk about helping children. But their real goal is to crush teachers’ unions and shift education from the public to the private sector, opening up potentially billions for rapacious for-profit firms that would love nothing better than to “Walmart-ize” American education.
Joining them are fundamentalist Christians, who believe public education is “godless.” They seek tax support for their network of private independent schools, many of which teach Bible stories in place of science, offer discredited “Christian nation” views of history and are stridently anti-gay and anti-woman.
The Catholic bishops provide the final piece of the puzzle. Catholic schools have been in steep decline for decades, as more and more parents realize their children can get a good education in local public schools (schools that are free of the ultra-conservative dogma that saturates many Catholic institutions). Unable to control their unruly U.S. flock, the bishops are essentially seeking a taxpayer-funded bailout of a private school system that fewer and fewer Catholic parents see as necessary."
Consider Wisconsin’s private school voucher program, which at 23 years and counting makes it the oldest of its kind in the United States. In 2011, a study found that students participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program scored proficient or advanced on standardized tests at a rate of 34.4 percent in math and 55.2 percent for reading, but students in Milwaukee Public Schools scored proficient or advanced at a rate of 47.8 percent in math and 59 percent in reading on the same assessments, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
The results have been equally unspectacular elsewhere. An analysis of Louisiana’s voucher program, released in May, found about 40 percent of third through eighth graders receiving vouchers scored at or above their grade level on statewide tests in English, math, social studies and science; by comparison, 69 percent of all third through eighth grade students statewide scored at or above grade level on those tests.
Likewise, a 2003 study of Cleveland’s then eight-year-old voucher scheme showed the program failed to boost the academic performance of the students taking part in it. The analysis, conducted by independent researcher Kim Metcalf of Indiana University, found that students participating in the program are doing no better academically than their public school counterparts."
Alan B. Krueger, a professor of economics and public policy, analyzed data presented in 2002 by Harvard University Professor of Government Paul E. Peterson, a voucher advocate, that found black students in the voucher schools scored 5.5 points higher on standardized tests than their counterparts in public schools.
Krueger’s own study of the data, however, showed no academic gains for African-American students in the voucher plan, reported Education Week. In analyzing the data, Krueger concluded that Peterson had erred by omitting too many children from the statistical sample. He also found that allowing a parent or guardian to state a child’s race led to children of mixed race being omitted from the sample when they should have been included. Including the omitted children, Krue­ger found a gain of only 1.44 percentile points on standardized tests, a figure that is not statistically significant."

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