Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) School Voucher Program
Washington D.C. Schools were failing.
Washington D.C. was spending $15, 489 per pupil (top among all states) 2 nd was New Jersey at 13,000.
Funds were spent on patronage, bloated bureaucracies, football fields, and swimming pools, which meant little money was spent on sound instruction.
Despite High funding it ranked among the bottom of the nation in educational outcomes (Darling-Hammond, 2010).
In 2003 a Republican controlled Congress voted to create the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) in the D.C. area.
The program was to be implemented in 2004 and was designed to last for a five year period.
OSP was a Federally funded voucher program that would provide vouchers up to $7,500 for an estimated 1,800 to 2,000 students in the D.C. area (76,000 students in the area).
Vouchers were awarded by lottery, priority was given to students who attended schools that were “In need of improvement” (SINI).
Initially the money granted could be taken to and used in any private or religious schools in the area.
The effect of expanded school choice on the performance of students who choose to exercise choice.
Performance of students who remained in the public schools.
Opportunities that students have to attend racially integrated schools.
Performance of students who were awarded vouchers.
The OSP program not only helped students who used their scholarships, it also increased performance levels of nearby public schools.
The rationale behind the OSP plan was that vouchers would encourage public schools to improve their performances by increasing the “market competition” (Greene & Winters, 2007).
OSP supporters found the D.C. public schools to be underperforming and unsafe.
The program would ultimately harm the public schools performance because they were depriving them of resources.
Enrollment drops caused a loss of per pupil funding loss, which also resulted in fewer resources available to those students who stayed (Greene & Winters, 2007).
Voucher systems have a history of pulling some of the most capable students, and active families- which takes away from the positive peer influence in the public schools (Greene & Winters, 2007).
When the public schools lose students they tend to feel an increased pressure to improve in order to minimize the political embarrassment caused by exodus of students.
Loss of role models if exceptional students opt for and are awarded vouchers.
Loss of higher achieving students could demoralize staff.
Schools are expected to do more then convey academic skills. We look to them to help in the development of future generations of citizens.
Vouchers may diminish racially segregated housing and schools by making it easier for students to attend schools outside of the attendance zones of the districts (Greene & Winters, 2007).
Private schools are more racially segregated then public schools (Greene & Winters, 2007).
No statistically significant impact on the D.C. public schools, positive or negative (Greene & Winters, 2007).
Very limited in information, because one year is not long enough to measure true effects (Ravitch, 2010).
No differences were found in reading and math test scores, between those students who won the lottery and those who did not (Ravitch, 2010).
The voucher program showed there was “a statistically significant positive impact on reading test scores, but not math scores” (Ravitch, 2010).
The reading test scores represented a gain of more than three months of learning (Ravitch, 2010).
Results were limited to certain groups of students; students who exhibited gains were the students who entered the program from schools that were NOT in need of improvement (SINI). Those that entered the program in the upper two-thirds of the test score distribution, and those who entered in grades K-8. Females also seemed to benefit (Ravitch, 2010).
The specific groups that did not show improvement in reading and math were boys, secondary students, students from SINI schools, and students in the lowest third of the test score distribution (Ravitch, 2010).
Students who showed no gains were in the highest priority groups, the ones for whom the program was designed (Ravitch, 2010).
82% of voucher students graduated from high school. (amounts to 449 low-income D.C. students who graduated solely thanks to OSP) (Campanella, 2010).
70% of students who were offered vouchers and did not accept them graduated (Campanella, 2010).
50% overall average graduation rate (Campanella, 2010).
There was NO significant impact on voucher students test scores (Campanella, 2010).
However, the D.C. public school students showed a 20 percent gain on NAEP (National Assessment of Education) scores (Campanella, 2010).
A study of 16 states covering 70% of all charter schools found that;
17% produced academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools serving demographically similar students.
37% performed worse
46% showed no difference.
There is even a lower percentage of performance for charter schools in the poorly regulated charter sector of Washington D.C.
Charter schools in D.C. also showed that they enroll substantially smaller numbers of children with high needs than do public schools.
Charter schools tend to have a higher population of low SES students.
Charter schools have fewer special education and English language students.
Because of the 5 federal studies that analyzed the program and found it ineffective, in 2009 funding was cut from 13 million to 9 million and a plan was set into place to fade out the OSP vouchers- due to the lack of promised results.
The program was scheduled to end in 2008. However, additional funding was given under the stipulation that no new students could enter the program; however students already in the voucher program could maintain a voucher through high school graduation (Today they are still serving 1,300 students) (National Coalition for Public Education, 2009).
2010 Department of Education report stated that the use of vouchers had no statically significant impact on overall student achievement in math and reading.
Further it found that the voucher program had no effect on student satisfaction, motivation, or engagement, or student views on school safety.
Students in voucher programs were also less likely to have access to key services such as:
SPED (underrepresented compared to public schools)
(National Coalition for Public Education, 2011)
Issue: Restarting and expanding the DC voucher program.
New Name Scholarship for Opportunity Results (SOAR)
Are vouchers the answers to D.C.’s problem?
Is it wise to try and advocate for the new plan SOAR, that really looks no different then OSP?