REPORTS CLAIMING VOUCHERS CAN REDUCE DROPOUT RATES FOUND TO BE OF POOR QUALITY
Reviewer says the conclusions reached by Friedman Foundation reports are flawed and untrustworthy
EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 9, 2008) – A series of five reports released over the past two years asserts that dropout rates can be reduced by implementing private-school voucher programs. A new review of those reports, however, finds that they are of little value because they ignore the abundance of relevant research and offer no means by which to gauge the alleged benefits of vouchers against other alternatives.
The five reports, each specific to a given state – Missouri, Indiana, Texas, South Carolina and North Carolina – follow a parallel structure and were written by Brian Gottlob and published by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation.
The reports were reviewed for the Think Twice project by Sherman Dorn of the University of South Florida.
Among their more serious flaws, Dorn finds that all five reports:
-largely ignore existing research on dropping out and school competition;
-present a superficial calculation of the costs of dropping out;
-improperly rely on a single, imperfect 1998 article as the entire basis for their calculations on the purported impact of voucher programs on improving graduation rates; and
-ignore possible alternative approaches for raising graduation rates, instead focusing exclusively on private school voucher programs.
According to Dorn, “the reports make no mention of the extensive literature exploring graduation, dropping out and the factors that shape educational attainment.” As a result, “each report obscures other program options that policymakers could consider.” These other options include preschool programs, intervention in middle and high school grades, changes in child labor laws, reduction in class sizes and modification of exit-exam requirements.
Dorn notes that dropping out is a serious problem which deserves serious rather than superficial analysis. He concludes by advising state policymakers who are interested in increasing graduation rates to bypass these reports and instead seek out “the available, well-researched scholarship on the topic,” much of which he identifies in the review.
Find the complete review by Sherman Dorn as well as a link to the Friedman Foundation reports at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org.