The Electric Commentary

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vouchers Work

From Alex Tabarrok:

Thus, this paper shows two things. First, that the test scores of the students in the public schools improved when vouchers gave the schools better incentives to perform. Second, at least some of the improvement comes from changes in how students are taught. The author's note, for example:

...we find that schools receiving an “F” grade are more likely to focus on low-performing students, lengthen the amount of time devoted to instruction, adopt different ways to organize the day and learning environment of the students and teachers, increase resources available to teachers...

It is not true that "nothing can be done to improve the schools." Incentives matter.


  • Paul, I certainly didn't look into the details of the study, but to make the statement that "vouchers work" based on a study of the absolute most horid schools in Florida seems like a stretch.

    By Anonymous Jbon, at 2:49 PM  

  • The striking thing about the study is that the incentives were fairly week, but had huge effects not just on the private schools that took voucher students, but on the public system as well.

    What the study points to is not just that vouchers do in fact work, but that they work even when they are severly limited.

    Alex goes on to add:

    Notice that Florida's program worked even though the program was very weak. It offered vouchers only to students in the worst schools and only after those schools received F grades in multiple years. The vouchers were relatively small and could not be topped up. In addition, the program lasted only a few years before it was declared unconstitutional by Florida's supreme court.

    A true voucher program would be national, would not discriminate among students, would offer funding equal to that spent on students in public schools and would be permanent. Competition in such a system would be more intense and even more productive than in Florida's program.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 3:09 PM  

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