NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Impact of Ohio's Voucher Program on Public School Performance

August 8, 2011

In 2005 Ohio's legislature enacted the Educational Choice Scholarship program (EdChoice), which provides vouchers to students in chronically underperforming schools, allowing them to attend private and religious schools.  Matthew Carr, a research fellow in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, evaluates the effects of the EdChoice voucher program on the academic performance of traditional public schools.  Specifically, he investigates how exposure to the threat of losing students to the voucher program affected standardized test performance in traditional public schools.

  • The largest gains among the traditional public schools were observed in the highest and lowest categories of test performance.
  • One hypothesis is that threatened schools chose to focus most heavily on their highest and lowest performers, even though this led to little noticeable change to their overall proficiency passage rates.
  • Voucher-threatened schools may be placing their focus on those students most likely to use the program to exit their residentially assigned school, those in the tails of the performance distribution.

Like other studies on this subject, an interesting, and perhaps important, relationship has been discovered between the implementation of a failing schools voucher program and subsequent changes in the performance of traditional public schools.  Finding answers to questions about the specific ways in which teachers, students and administrators may have changed their behavior in response to a voucher threat or stigma, and about potential differential effects based on any number of contextual factors, is the next step for research on this subject, says Carr.

Source: Matthew Carr, "The Impact of Ohio's EdChoice on Traditional Public School Performance," Cato Journal, Summer 2011.

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