June 30, 2016

Christopher Lubienski, (217) 643-8311, club@illinois.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Serious Problems and Errors Mar Two Voucher Reports, Academic Review Finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jun. 30, 2016) — Two recent reports claimed to offer empirical support of the effectiveness of school vouchers. The reports focused on randomized studies of the effects of school vouchers on educational outcomes, concluding that school vouchers have positive effects. However, an academic review released today finds the reports have serious problems and errors.

The reviewed reports include: (1) A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice; and (2) The Participant Effects of Private School Vouchers across the Globe: A Meta-Analytic and Systematic Review from the Department of Education Reform (DER) at the University of Arkansas.

Christopher Lubienski, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, reviewed both reports for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The Friedman report reviews studies purporting to show positive impacts from voucher programs in the U.S. According to Lubienski, the report is a rudimentary "vote counting" analysis of an extremely narrow set of studies, which used a biased counting system.

The authors of the Arkansas report conducted a limited meta-analysis of U.S. and international voucher programs. Lubienski finds that the Arkansas report fails to offer a "global look" at vouchers - utilizing only three international studies. Additionally, the authors of the Arkansas report used only 19 studies, out of more than 9,000 available, with almost half of which conducted by the authors themselves or their associates.

Ultimately, Lubienski concludes: "Both reports are marred by a number of serious problems and errors, including misrepresentations of the research literature, a failure to acknowledge the limitations of their approaches, not addressing the shortcomings of the theoretical underpinnings of vouchers, and the use of methods that bias the selections of the studies they utilize."

He says, "Together, their manifold serious flaws undercut the trustworthiness and usefulness of these reports."

Read the full review at:

Find A Win-Win Solution on the web:

Find The Participant Effects of Private School Vouchers across the Globe on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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