Study finds no academic gains among voucher students

CLEVELAND (AP) - Children in the Cleveland school voucher program fared no better than their public-school peers, and in some cases were performing below public-school levels, according to a new study.

Students in the city's nine-year-old program made no noticeable academic achievements when compared to public schools, according to a study by an official with the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University.

The study found that fourth graders in public schools outperformed voucher program participants in math. But second-graders in public schools had lower language scores.

The two groups performed about equally in reading.

However, test results may not be the best measure of the voucher program's effectiveness, said Clive Belfield, associate director of the center.

"Alternative measures such as drop-out or truancy rates may be more appropriate," Belfield said.

Belfield's study found that teachers make a difference. Test scores were higher in fourth-grade classes where teachers had more experience, he said.

A 2003 study by Indiana University researchers found that public school students had slightly higher test scores than student attending private schools on vouchers.

The Cleveland program serves roughly 5,700 students. It is one of only three programs nationwide that offers students public money for private-school education.

Wisconsin and Florida both have similar programs in place.

Ohio lawmakers voted the summer to more than triple the size of the voucher project. The move extended school choice to 14,000 students, making it the nation's largest voucher program.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)