It has been a strident point, however, of the anti-voucher crowd that there are no standards of measuring whether private schools provide at least the same quality of education as public schools. Utah Amicus, in an attempt to disprove a non-issue for the pro-voucher crowd, actually helped disprove a very fundamental theory of the anti-voucher crowd.
Utah Amicus has implied here that studies have shown that students who are educated through the use of vouchers are no smarter than children educated in the public schools. So? It's interesting that relative intelligence is hardly ever an issue to those who support vouchers, unless it is to cite evidence that the education of both vouchered and non-vouchered students improves when vouchers are implemented. Rather, choice is the issue.
A great outcry of those who are opposed to vouchers is that there are no standards or measurements which can be applied to the efficacy of the private schools who accept vouchers, and thus we can't be sure whether privately educated students are being educated on par with their publicly educated peers.
Utah Amicus refers to an analysis of the results of vouchered versus non-vouchered education in places like Milwaukee. Unfortunately for the intended point to be made, the analysis says in part
After three years, averaging across all students, there were no differences between voucher and non-voucher students on national tests (Howell & Peterson, 2002). When students were categorized into ethnic/racial groups, however, an advantage was found for African-American students in math. No other ethnic group, including Hispanics and non-Hispanic Caucasians, was helped by the vouchers. Subsequent analyses suggest that even the specific gains shown in math by African-Americans may be very small (Kreuger & Peu, 2003).
Evaluators of a new voucher program in Washington, D.C., report no difference between voucher users and nonusers in the first year (Wolf, et al., 2007).
So, in an effort to disprove something that has not been a central issue of its opponent's views, Utah Amicus has actually done damage to its own advocacy by admitting that measurements exist to indicate that students educated through the assistance of vouchers actually do as well as their publicly educated counterparts.
Incidentally, the reason for the lack of educational difference is an interesting one. Parents for Choice in Education has this to say on its web site:
2. Does school choice help students do better in school? What about public school students who don't use a voucher?
A large number of high-quality studies show that vouchers improve academic achievement for students who use the voucher AND for those that choose to stay in public schools. This is because there is a change in the system, and the public schools become accountable to all parents, including low-income parents, who now have a choice in which school to enroll their child. Studies also show high parental satisfaction with voucher programs, as well as increased graduation rates. No empirical study has ever found that vouchers hurt a student's academic achievement or public-school outcomes. (Emphasis added.)
The analysis that Utah Amicus cites indicates some evidence that tends to agree with PCE's statement.
In 1999, Florida instituted a school accountability system, in which low-scoring schools (F grade) were put under sanctions and their students were offered vouchers for other schools. Test scores in F schools improved.Additionally:
That is, students who stayed in F schools and did not use vouchers did better (Greene & Winters, 2003).
In neither place, however, was there direct evidence that remaining students had lower achievement scores.
It sounds to me like vouchers are a good thing. It appears that Utah Amicus agrees.