It's been a bad week for school choice advocates. As this blog has chronicled, on Monday we learned that charter schools across the country don't have a measurable benefit to students; on Wednesday, Sarah Mosle took down the myth that KIPP is the answer to all of our problems; and today we're getting word that voucher programs aren't all they're cracked up to be either.
For this latest insight, we're heading back to Milwaukee, which is the site of the oldest and broadest voucher program in the nation. Reports out yesterday from the University of Arkansas found that: "The primary finding in all of these comparisons is that there is no overall statistically significant difference between MPCP (voucher) and MPS (Milwaukee Public School) student achievement growth in either math or reading one year after they were carefully matched to each other."
In other words, not only are vouchers not the panacea for correcting the faults in the entire system, they don't even do that much for individual kids.
Honestly, this shouldn't be shocking news to people following the education debates. We know that governance of schools matters far less than teaching in schools. What happens in the classroom is always going to be more important than who's in charge outside of the classroom.
When we decide that we want to get serious about actually reforming education, we need to look at things like improving teacher quality, reducing class sizes, and ensuring that students are able to come to school with their basic needs (food, shelter, health care) met. Enough grandstanding about choice. Let's work on what matters.