Friedman Foundation’s Voucher Report Misrepresents Research
Existing studies on competitive effect of vouchers found insufficient to support advocacy claims, new review finds
EAST LANSING, MI (April 27, 2009) – A recent report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice purports to present a comprehensive review of research done on the competitive effect that voucher programs have on public schools. But a Think Twice review of the report finds that it is based on weak studies, most produced by pro-voucher organizations, and that it misrepresents findings.
The Friedman report, “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on How Vouchers Affect Public Schools,” was written by Greg Forster. Forster is a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation, which was founded to advance Milton Friedman’s belief in a privatized education system. The report was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by Dr. Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois, a nationally recognized expert on school choice research.
The Friedman report describes 17 studies of voucher programs and contends that these studies show a consensus that the competitive threat of vouchers causes public schools to improve.
In his review, Lubienski finds numerous flaws with the report’s evidence, assumptions and reasoning. Among them is the fact that while it claims to reflect “all available empirical studies on how vouchers affect academic achievement in public schools,” the majority of the studies cited in the report were produced by explicitly pro-voucher advocacy organizations, and almost none underwent peer review. “Such peer review is typical in university-based research in order to instill some objective measure of quality,” says Lubienski.
In addition, Lubienski points out that the report is premised on the assertion that private schools are superior to public ones, but it offers no evidence and in fact ignores “a growing body of research—much of it peer-reviewed—suggesting that they are not.”
Lubienski concludes that the Friedman report is not one which offers any useful guidance to measuring the benefits or harm of voucher programs. It is, rather, “an overview [that] seems designed to build a pro-voucher argument rather than an evenhanded presentation of research.”
Find Christopher Lubienski’s review on the web at: http://www.greatlakescenter.org
About The Think Twice Project
The mission of the Great Lakes Center is to improve public education for all students in the Great Lakes region through the support and dissemination of high quality, academically sound research on education policy and practices.
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