Jeff Bryant: Schools’ false promises

March 1, 2013 

Schools’ false promises

In the Feb. 23 Point of View “Putting school power with parents,” author Terry Stoops seriously oversold the positive results of Washington, D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, a school voucher approach that siphons money targeted for public schools to private entities.

The research base for these exaggerated claims is a recent study conducted by school choice proponents who cited one variable – graduation rates – as the sole basis for their boosterism of the program. A study from a more impartial Congressionally-mandated panel looked at the D.C. program and found “no conclusive evidence that the OSP affected student achievement.”

As for those graduation rates? Education historian Diane Ravitch has noted that the comparisons of the D.C. program to other schools is flawed, “Because students who enter a lottery tend to be more motivated than those who do not, [so] reputable social scientists usually compare the outcomes of those who won the lottery and those who did not.”

Isolating a single variable – like graduation rate alone – is hallmark of research trying to find evidence for a conclusion already formed. Lesson: Beware the false promises of the “school choice” movement.

Jeff Bryant

Chapel Hill

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