1/29/2006

TPMCafe Debunking the School Voucher Myth

The obvious factor is always ignored by Voucher supporters: WHO is going to a school accounts for a large part of the results that school gets from it's students, i.e., schools full of poor minority students do worse than private schools but poor minority students tend to do worse even if they attend a private school. Vouchers aren't the solution, fixing the public schools is the solution. -- law

Inputs and Outputs

By Matthew Yglesias | bio

Here's a study (full study, NYT summary, relevant blog post) showing pretty comprehensively what a lot of earlier research has indicated -- private school students do better than public school students in America. They do better, that is, until you introduce some fairly basic demographic controls at which point they often do worse and certainly don't show any systemic superiority. The anti-vouchers point here is sufficiently obvious that I won't belabor it.

There's a broader lesson/problem here for almost all efforts at educational reform, namely that study after study of education at almost all levels tends to point in this direction -- educational outcomes vary widely, but almost all of this is accounted for by the differences in inputs. Socioeconomic variables account for a huge proportion of the variance in outcomes, not only between whole schools (i.e., schools full of poor minority students do worse than schools full of middle class white ones) but also within schools (i.e., poor minority students tend to do worse even if they attend a school mostly full of middle class white kids).

Roughly speaking, as a society we've given our schools the task of trying to ameliorate America's huge levels of inequality, but education simply seems to be inadquate to the task. Nobody knows a reliable method of making schools that are capable of overcoming disadvantages that kids from certain families face..

Iglesias adds what works:
One thing that does seem to work pretty well is having the government offer bribes to "at risk" kids to do better in school. This tends to make people queasy for a variety of reasons, but the empirical evidence suggests it works and I think we should try it

TPMCafe || Inputs and Outputs

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