NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Re-Examined Study Finds Education Vouchers Beneficial

June 24, 2003

After re-analyzing their data from dozens of angles, Paul Petersen and William Howell defend the conclusions of their recent study, which showed positive effects for African-American students enrolled in a voucher program in New York City. The privately funded program gave vouchers worth $1,400 to 1,200 public school students to help pay the cost of private schooling. The lucky students were chosen by lottery from among applicants. A research team collected baseline test scores and followed them for three years. According to their findings:

  • African-American students in private schools, after three years, scored roughly eight percentile points higher on reading and math portions of standardized tests than did their peers in public school.
  • The two looked at the evidence in 120 different ways, and in 108 of the estimations used they found significantly positive effects for African-Americans.

To answer critics who said that the method for determining ethnicity was misleading, Petersen and Howell used four different classification schemes in their re-analysis.

  • A student was first classified as African-American if his or her mother was African-American; second, when both parents were; third, when the parental caretaker was; and fourth, when either the mother or father was.
  • No matter the definition of ethnicity, the results remained the same: private schooling had a positive influence on African-American student performance in all three years the study was conducted.

Furthermore, students benefited from the private schooling regardless of what grade they were in when they entered the program.

Petersen and Howell's study is part of a body of research supporting school-voucher programs that has "greater breadth and depth than research on almost any other education policy," said Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Source: Paul E. Petersen and William G. Howell, "Again, Our Study Shows the Value of Vouchers," Letters, Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2003; Jay P. Greene, "An Unfair Grade for Vouchers," Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2003.

For Petersen-Howell letter,,SB10557312137885300-search,00.html


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