Home > Uncategorized > When You Don’t Like Rigorous Research on Vouchers, Open the Doors to Shoddy Studies

When You Don’t Like Rigorous Research on Vouchers, Open the Doors to Shoddy Studies

May 11, 2017

A few weeks ago the “reformers” and pro-voucher advocates were stunned to discover that a rigorously conducted study found, for the umpteenth time, that students who use vouchers or attend charter schools do no better than students who attend public— er, “government schools”. So, as Martin Levine reported in last week’s Non-Profit Quarterly, the House included a change in research techniques using the huge (and largely unread) budget bill to fix things:

Buried in the recently passed omnibus budget bill that keeps the government operating and funds the federal government through next September is a provision that bars using “gold standard” research techniques to evaluate federally funded school voucher programs. According to Education Week, U.S. policy requires “the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences to evaluate the voucher program every year. But instead of using randomized, controlled trials, which have been used in prior evaluations of the program, it calls for the evaluations to use ‘an acceptable quasi-experimental research design…that does not use a control study group consisting of students who applied for but did not receive opportunity scholarships.’” The bill does allow ongoing randomized studies to continue without changing their design.

This is consistent with the anti-science bent of the current administration… but is sad because it will deny legislators from making evidence-based decisions about schools. In a capitalist democracy it is important for people to be able to make informed decisions about how they spend their personal money and their tax dollars and important for their policies to be guided by solid information. Actions like this, and the cutting of regulatory agencies, and the cutting of agencies that provide unbiased consumer information, the decisions to eliminate research on “hot button” issues like gun ownership, undercut democracy… but they DO support the profiteering plutocrats who underwrite the campaigns of politicians.

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