Have vouchers made a difference in kids’ educational performance? The scholars are divided as sharply as the lawyers. Depending on which study you consult, you could conclude that students in Milwaukee’s voucher program showed no measurable academic improvement over their public school counterparts — or that they showed double-digit progress in math. In Cleveland, one study found no significant improvement in the performance of third-graders in the voucher program after one year. But another study concluded that, after two years, voucher students had made significant gains in reading and math.

“Unfortunately, though perhaps not surprisingly,” wrote one team of researchers in the September 1999 issue of Phi Delta Kappan, an education policy magazine, “this confusion has allowed those on both sides of the issue to selectively use research results to support their positions.” Moreover, the article notes, “highly publicized scholarly infighting among researchers involved in the issue has further undermined public confidence in the utility of educational research.”

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