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Ed Knows Policy

EKP -- a local (Washington, DC) and national blog about education policy, politics, and research.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

What can we learn from the DC Voucher Study?

Casey Lartigue, a big voucher fan here in DC, has a post on his blog about the DC Scholarship Opportunity Program, also known as the DC voucher program. Casey makes a pretty good point about the study of the DC voucher program: The evaluation will probably not change too many minds. In his words:

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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Ed Knows, Day 1

This is an education blog, but not a teacher blog. Not a wonk blog. Not a local education blog. Just the thoughts of an education researcher wearily taking off his thick coke-bottle glasses, hanging up his white lab coat, and pondering the bigger picture now and then. Ed Researcher knows education. Ed Researcher knows policy. Ed definitely knows statistics and economics. Ed even knows a thing or two about politics. But please be patient as Ed learns about blogging... Thanks.

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