Because private schools are not required to take standardised tests, it is difficult to know whether students receiving vouchers get a better education. A state mandated study of the Milwaukee program, by Professor John Witte from the University of Wisconsin, found that although the families who received vouchers were very happy with the system, there was actually no evidence that student performance improved between 1990 and 1995 as a result of attending private schools with the help of vouchers.
No subsequent evaluation was required by the state government. However a study by Princeton economist Cecilia Rouse found that performance gains during the 1990s were higher for students in smaller classes in public schools than they were for voucher students in private schools. This suggests government money would be better spent on more teachers in public school.
Results in other states have been mixed with some performance gains reported for African Americans in Washington and New York but not for Hispanic or white children receiving vouchers.
In a literature review of full-voucher programs in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Sweden, Chile and Vermont undertaken for the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, Cathy Wylie concluded that:
Research on full voucher systems covering both public and private schools shows no evidence that they provide a powerful means to overcome the gaps in achievement between low income students and others. Nor do they appear to increase overall achievement… There is also no evidence of increased efficiencies or lower educational costs…Reference: Cathy Wylie, ‘Can Vouchers Deliver Better Education? A Review of the Literature: With Special Reference to New Zealand’, Wellington, New Zealand Council for Educational Research 1998, p. 6.
Institutional competition on its own does not play the dominant role in educational quality, achievement, or access. It does not increase innovation, diversity, or the access of low income students to schools with high intakes of higher income students.
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