Study: Louisiana vouchers produce poor results

A new study of a Louisiana school voucher program should get attention in Indiana, where a five-year-old voucher program continues to grow rapidly with little oversight from state officials.

The study, published in December 2015 as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds that Louisiana students who get state-funded vouchers to pay private school tuition perform much worse on standardized tests than if they had stayed in public schools.

The voucher program, called the Louisiana Scholarship Program or LSP, was established as a pilot program in 2008 and greatly expanded by Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2012. According to the study:

Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children.

A 50 percent increase in the likelihood of getting a failing score in math is a lot. Lowering scores by 0.4 standard deviation is harder for us non-statisticians to grasp. But note that it’s five to 10 times as big an effect as the charter-school test-score gains that are touted as meaningful by the Stanford-based CREDO research organization. So yes, it should get notice. Continue reading

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Louisiana funds schools that teach creationism? Indiana does too

Louisiana’s school-voucher program has been getting a lot of media attention for providing public funding to religious schools that teach creationism and far-right ideas about U.S. history. The fact that Indiana’s voucher program does the same thing has largely escaped scrutiny.

Associated Press and Reuters news service have reported on Louisiana’s program and the controversy over whether taxpayer dollars should pay for the teaching of religious doctrine that is contrary to state science education standards.

And Mother Jones magazine mocked the Louisiana voucher program, listing “14 wacky ‘facts’” about science and history that Louisiana students will learn in voucher schools – for example, that humans and dinosaurs “probably hung out,” that “slave masters were nice guys” and “the Great Depression wasn’t as bad as liberals made it sound.” The magazine’s source is the A Beka and Bob Jones Press textbooks that are used in evangelical Christian schools that qualify for vouchers in Louisiana.

IUPUI professor and former Indiana Civil Liberties Union chief Sheila Kennedy laments such “rejection of science and rewritten history” in a blog post. “Welcome to Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana,” she writes.

Yeah, and to Mitch Daniels’ Indiana.

A number of Indiana schools receiving vouchers use A Beka and Bob Jones textbooks, according to their websites. Here are a few: Liberty Christian School in Anderson, Kingsway Christian School in Avon, Lighthouse Christian Academy in Bloomington, Continue reading