NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Voucher Students Gain

December 10, 1998

New York City students from low-income families who used vouchers to attend private schools outperformed their peers who remained in public schools after the first year of the program.

Students applying to New York's School Choice Scholarship Foundation in 1997 were tested, and scores of those chosen by a lottery to receive scholarship vouchers were compared one year later to scores of those not selected. Among the findings:

  • Students who received a scholarship scored slightly higher -- about two percentile points -- in math and reading tests than the non-scholarship group.
  • Sizable differences were observed among students in the fourth and fifth grades -- four percentile points in reading and six in math.
  • Parents of scholarship users reported less tardiness, cheating and destruction of property.

About 90 percent of the students studied are members of minority groups. If the gains posted by the fourth and fifth graders continued throughout their school careers, the program would eliminate for them the gap in test scores that now exists in the public schools between minority students and their peers.

This was the first estimate of the impact of a school choice pilot program that included random selection of voucher recipients through a lottery, data on student test performance and family background characteristics collected prior to the lottery and data on a broad range of characteristics collected from the test group and control group one year later.

Source: Paul E. Peterson, David Myers and William G. Howell, "An Evaluation of the New York City School Choice Scholarships Program: the First Year," Oct. 28, 1998, Mathematica Policy Research, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024, (202) 484-4523; and Program on Education Policy and Governance, Taubman 306, Kennedy School of Government, 79 J. F. Kennedy Street, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 02138, (617) 495- 7976.


Browse more articles on Education Issues