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New Study Suggests D.C. Scholarship Program
January 18, 2006: A new study released today evaluates the initial effects of a federally sponsored scholarship program in Washington D.C. on the opportunities District students have to attend racially integrated schools and the academic outcomes of the District's public schools . The report evaluates the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program after its first year of implementation. The study was conducted by Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters, of the University of Arkansas and the Manhattan Institute, and was jointly released today by the Manhattan Institute and Georgetown University's School Choice Demonstration Project.
The study compares rates of racial integration in D.C.'s public schools and private schools participating in the scholarship program during its first year. The authors find that scholarship-accepting private schools have populations whose racial demographics more accurately mirror those of the surrounding metropolitan region than do public schools in the District. The study also finds that schools accepting Opportunity Scholarship are less likely to have enrollments that are 90% or 95% racially homogeneous than are students attending Washington D.C. public schools. For example, the study finds that 85.4% of students enrolled in D.C. public schools attend a school that is 90% or more racially homogeneous, while 47.3% of students in scholarship accepting private schools attend such segregated schools.
"Our study suggests that the scholarship program will likely lead to low-income students leaving more segregated public schools for better integrated private schools," explained Dr. Jay Greene.
The authors also evaluate the effect of the policy on the academic performance of District public schools. The study measures whether changes in a public school's test scores are related to its distance to the nearest scholarship accepting private school or the number of scholarship schools within a one mile radius of a public school. In theory, public schools with shorter distances to private schools or that have more private schools nearby should face greater competition from the scholarship program than public schools with fewer educational alternatives nearby.
The evaluation finds that the OSP had no academic effect, positive or negative, on the District's public schools after its first year. Other studies tend to indicate school choice programs have helped to improve public school performance. The authors argue that a null finding could be explained by several factors. The program was designed to have a minimal financial impact on public schools, so DCPS should have fewer incentives to respond to the new competition. The program is small, serving fewer than 1,000 children in a district with more than 70,000 students. In contrast, charter schools serve 15,000 children. Finally, there is a possibility that the null finding might be explained if there were no strong relationship between scholarships competition and academic performance in Washington D.C public schools.
This report is part of a series of independent, foundation-supported studies of Washington D.C.'s pioneering federal scholarship program. These studies are meant to augment and complement the governmental evaluation of the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The authors plan to continue evaluating the program in each of the next five years using a variety of approaches.
The study is now available online at http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/ewp_10.htm. If you have any questions about the study, or if you would like to schedule an interview with one of the authors, please contact Clarice Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 646-839-3318.
Jay P. Greene is Endowed Chair and Head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He has conducted evaluations of school choice and accountability programs in Florida, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and San Antonio. He has also recently published research on high school graduation rates, social promotion, and special education and is the author of the book, Education Myths (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005).
His research was cited four times in the Supreme Court's opinions in the landmark Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case on school vouchers. His articles have appeared in policy journals, such as The Public Interest, City Journal, and Education Next, in academic journals, such as the Teachers College Record, the Georgetown Public Policy Review, and the British Journal of Political Science, as well as in major newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and USA Today.
Greene received his B.A. in history from Tufts University in 1988 and his Ph.D. from the Government Department at Harvard University in 1995. He lives with his wife and three children in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Marcus A. Winters is a Senior Research Associate at the Manhattan Institute, where he studies and writes on education policy. He is also a Doctoral Academy Fellow in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. He has performed several studies on a variety of education policy issues including high-stakes testing, charter schools, and the effects of vouchers on the public school system. His op-ed articles have appeared in numerous newspapers, including the Washington Post, USA Today, and the Chicago Sun-Times. He received his B.A. in political science with departmental honors from Ohio University in 2002.
The School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP), based within the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI), is an education research center devoted to the non-partisan study of the effects of school choice policy and is staffed by leading school choice researchers and scholars. SCDP's national team of researchers, institutional research partners and staff are devoted to the rigorous evaluation of school choice programs and other school improvement efforts across the country. SCDP is currently collaborating with other research agencies on the official quantitative examination of OSP funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Services, to be released in early spring 2007. For more information on SCDP, visit: http://www.georgetown.edu/research/scdp/.
Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll. Georgetown today is a major student-centered, international, research university offering respected undergraduate, graduate and professional programs on its three campuses in Washington, DC. For more information about Georgetown University, visit http://www.georgetown.edu.
The Manhattan Institute, a 501(c)(3), is a think tank whose mission is to develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.
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