What can we learn from the DC Voucher Study?
Here's my prediction about what will happen once the program's evaluation is released: The program's evaluators will release a balanced report with both good and bad findings. Overall, they will conclude that children in the program had done quite well and that families reported being happier; non-scholarship recipients hadn't done as well as scholarship recipients; that the claims of opponents were exaggerated, but there were indeed some technical problems. That is, they'll conclude that if they can agree that they had a valid test, which isn't guaranteed.
Either way, supporters of the program will conclude that it had been a success; opponents will highlight the problems and conclude that the program had been a failure; moderates will understand both sides; and researchers will ask for more research.
I agree with Casey on this one. The study is very important and will make a contribution to knowledge, but we have to keep modest expectations about what can be learned from it.
The study won't say anything about whether consumer choice-based competition leads to supply side effects, whereby both private and public sector schools are supposed to improve.
It also won't address many interesting what-if questions that policy makers might want to ask. What if you expand the program to more families? What if you change the rules about which private schools qualify for vouchers? What if the voucher amount were increased?
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