Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Louisiana Voucher Students Perform Worse Than Non-Voucher Peers

After 4 years of the Louisiana School Voucher Program, Voucher Students Continue to Perform Lower Than They Would Have if They Had Stayed in Their Public Schools

The University of Arkansas has been studying the Louisiana Voucher Program, which is officially labeled using the more attractive "Scholarship Program". They found that after 4 years the results continue to be disappointing for its boosters. Students in the voucher program continue to do worse than they would have if they had stayed in their original public schools. The researchers were able to draw this conclusion because they used the "gold standard" for research by comparing the voucher results against students who were randomly left out of the program by the lottery process. This provides a true scientific control and therefore more reliable results.
Louisiana's pro-reform media generally ignored this latest study on vouchers, probably because they and the powerful big business lobbyists don't want to report reform failures.
Last week I reported in this blog that The Advocate chose not to report on a bill debated in the Senate Education Committee that would have given local school systems the option to pull out of the Common Core based state standards. My testimony to that committee revealed that since the adoption of the Common Core Based standards 6 years ago, Louisiana students are now performing in last place compared to other states. Technically, we are tied with New Mexico for last place.

The failure of the voucher program was also ignored by most of the larger media sources. It was only reported by a few public radio stations, even though all news media got the press release from the University of Arkansas.

This blog has reported that the primary forces behind education reform in Louisiana have been the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) and the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL). These big business groups were strong supporters of the Common Core Standards and other reforms such as teacher merit pay (which was a total failure and resulted in a serious teacher shortage). LABI and CABL don't like to admit when they are wrong!

The Education Research Alliance based at Tulane University has stopped reporting on the voucher program for some mysterious reason.
Originally the Education Research Alliance had jointly studied vouchers along with the University of Arkansas. The expectation was that both groups would continue the follow-up studies because some believed that the voucher program may improve over time. That has obviously not happened and the Tulane group has stopped reporting the sad results.

The latest report on Louisiana education reforms by the Tulane group occurred in July of 2018. That report concluded that Louisiana student test scores on state tests had improved by 11 to 16% since the reforms. This was the kind of report the reform supporters such as LABI wanted to see. The only problem is that the analysis was seriously flawed. The problem is that the state test score results are totally under control of the LDOE and the testing company. They can manipulate the results to produce any result they want. And that's exactly what they did. When compared to the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAPE) which is the test that provides a comparison of Louisiana with all the other states, it becomes obvious that our state test results have been inflated by over 59%.

The latest report by Tulane also touted the fact that the Louisiana graduation rate had improved since the reforms by 3 to 9 percentage points. But the analysis failed to note that the high school End of Course tests had their passing scores lowered to approximately 20% correct answers for a passing score. In other words, we boosted our graduation rate by lowering the standards for graduation.

Basically all of the Jindal/John White reforms have been total failures. That's the news that LABI and the pro-reform media don't want to report.