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Vouchers are failing our students

Politico’s Stephanie Simon has a compelling story from this weekend about how American taxpayers will spend more than $1 billion to help parents send their kids to private schools – yet there is scant evidence that this endeavor will actually help students succeed.

Milwaukee, Cleveland, New Orleans – all hallowed ground for school vouchers, yet their stories point to failure instead of success for student guinea pigs.

In Milwaukee, just 13 percent of voucher students scored proficient in math and 11 percent made the bar in reading this spring. That’s worse on both counts than students in the city’s public schools. In Cleveland, voucher students in most grades performed worse than their peers in public schools in math, though they did better in reading.

In New Orleans, voucher students who struggle academically haven’t advanced to grade-level work any faster over the past two years than students in public schools, many of which are rated D or F, state data show.

And across Louisiana, many of the most popular private schools for voucher students posted miserable scores in math, reading, science and social studies this spring, with fewer than half their voucher students achieving even basic proficiency and fewer than 2 percent demonstrating mastery. Seven schools did so badly, state Superintendent John White barred them from accepting new voucher students — though the state agreed to keep paying tuition for the more than 200 voucher students already enrolled, if they chose to stay.

Beginning in 2014, North Carolina will begin its own voucher program, funneling $10 million in funds that would have gone to public schools to parents wishing to send their kids to private schools. I’ve written a series of stories for a special feature that takes a look at what we can expect as the Opportunity Scholarship Program approaches implementation.

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