Patrick Wolf, Babette Gutmann, Michael Puma, Brian Kisida, Lou Rizzo, Nada Eissa
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
The political controversy about D.C. vouchers has swirled about (see above). And in the midst of the shouting arrived this report. What did it discover? In its early phases, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program appears to be taking small but promising steps in the right direction. Passed in 2004, the program is the nation's first federally funded k-12 voucher program and currently provides scholarship options to more than 1,900 low-income students. This second-year evaluation did not find statistically significant gains overall in reading, but three large subgroups, comprising 88 percent of participating students, saw improvements (though researchers report that they're not "robust"). Parental satisfaction is also on the rise; parents of students offered a scholarship were significantly less likely to "report serious concerns about school danger" than were parents in the control group (there was no difference in student satisfaction between the two groups, however). Although OSP is not demonstrating real fireworks after two years, it is sending sparks of encouragement to a program Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings calls the "lifeline of hope and opportunity" for so many D.C. youth. The full evaluation can be found here.