According to Matthew M. Chingos and Paul E. Peterson in EducationNext, the prototype for that school voucher programs was created in New York City in the mid-90s when Cardinal John J. O’Connor and Mayor Rudy Giuliani couldn’t secure public funding to permit NYC children enrolled in the worst-performing public schools to join Catholic schools instead. To create the program to life, a group of philanthropists come up with New York School Choice Scholarship Foundation and distributed grants of up to $1,400 per student to at least one,000 low-income students who have been about to enter public school or were already signed up for 2nd through 5th grades.
Since this program was oversubscribed almost immediately, the founders established a lottery system to find out who would get the scholarships. The winning families were guaranteed scholarships for that first five years in school for every one of their kids.
And thus was born not only one of the first voucher programs in the united states, but an unparalleled research opportunity for anyone interested in looking at long-term impact of vouchers. EdNext explains the opportunity wasn\’t one that SCSF was thinking about passing up, so it asked an independent research team to look at the difference in outcomes between families that entered the voucher lottery and won and people who did and lost.
Families who won the voucher lottery were told that scholarship renewal was determined by participation in annual testing in a designated site apart from the child\’s school. Families who lost the lottery were paid for participating in subsequent testing sessions, and their children were given additional chances to get a windfall. Those who won a subsequent lottery were dropped in the evaluation control group. Those families who won the lottery but who did not make use of the scholarship were also compensated for participating in subsequent testing sessions. The initial evaluation identified, after 3 years, large positive effects of the voucher opportunity around the test lots of African Americans but not on the test scores of students from other ethnic groups.
Brookings had published the previous phase from the study which looked at academic outcomes if this came to achievement and graduation. Now Chingos and Peterson expanded their scope to see if participation in SCSF’s program had any effect on college enrollment rates.
The paper takes great care to outline the methodology used to study the college enrollment impact and concludes that for the whole population studied, the rise in college enrollment in the three years after high school graduation was only .7% C not considered statistically significant. However, as Chingos and Peterson explain, this small increase masks a lot more substantial impact when the results were divided along demographic groups C especially for African-American students.
The SCSF-NSC linked data indicate that the voucher offer increased the college-enrollment rate of African Americans by 7 percentage points, an increase of 20 percent. If an Black student used the scholarship to attend private school for any amount of time, the estimated impact on college enrollment was 9 percentage points, a 24 percent increase within the college enrollment rate among comparable Black students allotted to the control group (see Figure 1). This matches 3 percentage points for every year the voucher was used.