Second Study Shows Academic Gains For School Choice Students, Results Mirror Earlier Findings

John Kramer
John Kramer · June 25, 1997

Washington, D.C.-School choice works.

That is the finding of a Harvard study released yesterday that examines the test results from participants in the Cleveland School Choice Program. Last year, the researchers found similar gains made by low-income students who participate in Milwaukee’s school choice program.

The report demonstrates that standardized test scores reported by the Hope Schools for Cleveland show moderately large gains in reading and even more substantial gains in math. After one year, students in kindergarten through third grade scored, on average, 5.5 percent higher on reading and 15 percent higher on math concepts. Although language test scores declined 19 percent among first graders tested, second graders improved by 2.9 percent and third graders gained 13.5 percent. Students experienced improvements in all grades and at both Hope Central and Hope Ohio City schools. The results of the Harvard study were statistically significant at the .05 level, which means the results have a 95 percent likelihood of being repeated.

Eighty-nine percent of the 297 students who were tested in the fall, took a spring test-a high retention rate for schools serving an inner-city population. Hope School students are all low-income and predominantly minority. According to the report, their entering test scores were similar to those of comparable inner-city students, while their spring test results were considerably higher.

The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, which is the nation’s leading legal advocate for school choice-advancing programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Vermont-hailed the new figures calling them yet another tangible demonstration that school choice works. “What makes these results so impressive is that the students who participate in the Cleveland school choice scholarship program are chosen at random from the entire school population,” said Clint Bolick, the Institute for Justice’s litigation director. “Through school choice, similar improvements could be achieved with most kids who the public schools are now failing to educate.”

The Harvard researchers, who had earlier documented dramatic gains in reading and math scores for Milwaukee school choice students, say that “a more extensive examination of the Cleveland School Choice Program is underway to determine if the gains witnessed at Hope Schools are being produced by the entire scholarship program.” The results of the study should be available by the fall.

These test results, couple with this week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held public funds may be used to educated special needs children at religiously affiliated schools has reinvigorating the Institute for Justice’s nationwide efforts for school choice.

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