Choice Schools – Brookings Institute Article

Published on June 3rd, 2016

From Indiana Non-Public Education Association (INPEA)…

A few days ago an article by the Brookings Institute was published on the “negative effects of vouchers.” Brookings article can be found here. This article states:

“Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has found that public school students that received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored lower on reading and math tests compared to similar students that remained in public schools.” The article later goes on to conclude that, “In education as in medicine, ‘first, do no harm’ is a powerful guiding principle. A case to use taxpayer funds to send children of low-income parents to private schools is based on an expectation that the outcome will be positive. These recent findings point in the other direction.”

Much of the research mentioned in the Brookings article focuses on other states, with only one piece of research examining school choice in Indiana. This study is yet to be published. We believe this article, along with other pieces published by ISTA (article can be found here), paints with too broad a brush and prematurely concludes that school choice doesn’t work for Indiana.

INPEA disagrees with the analysis in the Brookings article and their interpretation of the selected research. Brookings inaccurately clumps Indiana together with other states and national data that does not fit or hold true to our Choice Scholarship Program. Additionally, the article itself admits, for the purposes of studying Indiana, that the research is “…a lower research standard for measuring effects than experimental designs” than it is with other states. The article cites only one study about one year’s test scores in one subject area. Sweeping generalizations about Indiana school choice cannot be supported. We have seen over the years that our Choice students are thriving. Indiana is a leader in school choice, and in providing parents with the option to select the school that best fits their child’s unique needs.

INPEA believes there is a strong likelihood that the media and press will catch wind of this article and unpublished research. In order to prepare for this, we have crafted talking points if the media or press in your area contacts you.

As always, INPEA is here to take any questions you may have and aid in talking with the media and press.

Talking Points

  • Brookings did not conduct their own research on the effects of school choice. The article cannot be called a “Brookings Institute study.” It is a literature review of research conducted by others; some research has not yet been finalized or even published.
  •  Students using the Choice Scholarship to make the switch between a public school to a non-public school often need time to adjust. Students who switch have a reason behind their switch, whether it’s bullying, their needs not being met at their current school, a lack of fit and/or underachievement. These students have a transitional period of adjusting to a new school, new standards, new environment, and new classmates. Like in most situations, it will take time to fully adjust to expectations, and even more time to thrive under the new environment.
  • The article references an ongoing study (Berends and Waddington) in which a public school students who switches to a non-public school shows a decline in math scores in the first two years, and then shows no decline in student performance in the third year. This study is being conducted in an urban setting in Marion country and uses data from ISTEP. This data collection began the year before school choice was enacted, and has continued since. We believe it is important to acknowledge this data and to address the decline, we also believe it is critical to understand that this study is still on going, it is not a complete sample of all of Indiana, and it does not use a test held in high regard. We are hopeful for future results and know our non-public schools will continue to provide students with a quality education.
  • Our parents choose to switch their students, not solely because of test scores, but because we address our children as more than just a data point. While we believe in providing the highest quality of academics, we also believe in addressing the whole child. Parents choose us for our mission and our beliefs on how we educate our students.
  • Data shows that Indiana non-public schools, on average, consistently out-perform public schools in test scores, graduation rates, and college attendance. We know that over the years, given time, our students will grow and flourish with us.
  • More time is needed to fully understand the scope of how school choice impacts Indiana. Choice has only been in action for a short number of years, and we believe it will take time to show its true impact