Indiana launched a school voucher program in 2011 which provided Choice Scholarships to students whose families had household incomes not more than 150 percent of the Federal free/reduced price (FRPL) lunch program criterion. This would be about $61,000/year for a family of four in Indiana. Those students who did qualify for the Federal free/reduced price lunch program received vouchers valued at 90 percent of the state per-student funding in that district. Those whose families earned 150 percent of the FRPL thresh hold received a voucher worth 50 percent of the state funding. This voucher program was targeted at lower income level families, those who could least afford options to the public schools. Many of these kids were trapped in failing public schools in the worst urban areas with little hope of escape.
So, what were the results? Did these lower income students (FRPLs) do better or did they do as poorly as they had in the public schools? Many in the educational community believe that poor students can’t learn. These students did significantly better when their parents were able to choose the best school fit for their children. Based on the Indiana standardized tests (ISTEP), voucher students scored 91 percent versus public school students scoring 79 percent in English. The results in the standardized mathematics tests were very similar.
An even more significant metric for student success in K-12 is third grade reading skills. If a child can read by third grade, then that child can read for life. Ninety-three percent of third grade students in voucher schools had mastered reading skills (IREAD-3) at that level. Fifty-six of the voucher schools achieved a 100 percent pass rate.
So, it appears that low income students can perform at grade level and actually surpass their contemporaries when given a chance and a choice in education. Does this mean that the government schools are contributing to the problem in places like Alaska where there is no choice outside the public school system? It’s time to do something different and do the right thing for parents and the kids. Let’s try school choice and give our lower income students the same opportunities as low income students in other states.
For the Indiana report go to http://www.schoolchoiceindiana.com/2012/07/indiana-voucher-schools-score-high-on-2012-istep/.