“Evidence-Based” Report on Vouchers Lacks Evidence

Review finds that report claiming Ohio vouchers improve public schools is riddled with flaws

Contact: Teri Battaglieri, (517) 203-2940;
Christopher Lubienski, (217) 333-4382;

EAST LANSING, Mi. (Sept. 8, 2008)— A new report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice claims to find evidence that Ohio’s private-school voucher program spurs public schools to improve achievement. A review of the report finds numerous flaws that seriously undermine the research.

The report, “Promising Start: An Empirical Analysis of How EdChoice Vouchers Affect Ohio Public Schools,” was reviewed for the Think Twice project by Professor Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois, a nationally recognized expert on school choice research.

“Promising Start” examines Ohio’s EdChoice program, which offers vouchers of $4,375 or more to allow up to 14,000 students enrolled in “chronically under-performing” public schools to instead attend private schools at taxpayer expense. The report asserts that there is empirical support that the voucher program, by fostering competition with public schools, improves those public schools’ performance, thereby providing an indirect benefit to those students who remain in the public schools. In particular, it claims that in EdChoice’s first year, students experienced substantial academic gains at public schools exposed to the possibility of losing students to vouchers.

“Despite being presented as scientifically rigorous, the report suffers from serious methodological shortcomings,” Lubienski writes. “The analysis uses weak variables and an incorrect approach to measuring academic gains, and it tries to make claims based on cherry-picking uneven results.”

“Instead of being empirically based, the report’s assumptions appear to be more statements of belief based in a rudimentary and simplistic view of economic behavior in markets for education,” Lubienski writes. “The Friedman report selectively focuses on studies—no matter what the quality—that appear to support its agenda. In doing so, it leaves out much high-quality research, much of it peer-reviewed, that seriously questions the assertion that the threat of losing students has a positive impact on public schools.”

“In view of the announced advocacy mission of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice regarding vouchers, and the notable flaws on this report, it is better read as a statement of belief than as an empirical analysis,” Lubienski writes.

Find Christopher Lubienski’s review and a link to the Friedman report on the web at:

About the Think Tank Review Project
The Think Twice project provides the public, policy makers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. It is a collaboration of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.


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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