At 3:30pm today, IES released results from the final evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, a.k.a DC vouchers. And in the grand tradition of education research, the results are “mixed”.
Researchers found no statistically significant evidence that receiving a voucher increased students’ achievement on reading and math tests. But, there was evidence that receiving a voucher and using that voucher to attend a private school increased students’ likelihood of graduating high school.
This study adds to a growing body of evidence that test scores, while important, shouldn’t be the sole measure of whether a program like OSP is effective–particularly in the age of “college and career ready”. A recent RAND report found that charter high schools in Chicago and Florida had a positive impact on graduation rates and college attendance, despite less positive test score outcomes. Researchers from that study concluded that, “future studies of charter schools should seek to examine a broad and deep range of student outcome measures.”
This conclusion doesn’t just apply to education ‘reforms’ like charter schools and vouchers. As Chad Aldeman showed in an ES report earlier this year, combining test score measures with longer term measures, like college attendance and college graduation, can produce more robust and stable measures of school performance.
The OSP and RAND studies indicate that longer term measures, like high school graduation and college attendance, might capture positive outcomes that shorter-term test score measures miss. And maybe, just maybe, if we start to consider a broader set of outcomes, we can find more programs that improve student achievement and get away from the continual stream of studies finding ‘mixed results’.