This study is a follow-on to the School Choice Demonstration Project that was commissioned by the state of Wisconsin in the mid 2000s. Researchers from the University of Arkansas tracked the progress of students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) along with a matched sample of students in traditional public schools. The matching method used here allows for the best measure of the true effect of an intervention outside of lotteries, which didn’t occur in Milwaukee.
There are two sets of results in the study, one for students that were in 9thgrade at baseline and one for students who were in 3rd through 8thgrade. Among 9th graders, effects were found on enrollment but not on graduation. Among 3rd through 8th graders, the study also found an effect on enrollment. They find that 50 percent of MPCP students in this group enrolled in college compared to 45 percent of Milwaukee Public Schools students. This difference was statistically significant.
The most compelling finding, however, is when the researchers examined college graduation. By April of 2019 when the data was collected, 11 percent of MPCP students in their sample had graduated from a four-year college, compared with 8 percent of students in the public school control group. In other words, MPCP students were 38 percent more likely to graduate from four-year colleges than their public school peers.
Last year’s version of this study found that students in the MPCP were more likely to enroll in college, but not to graduate. It appears that an additional year of data has had a dramatic effect on the findings.
There are a lot of factors that go into something like this – not least of which is that, by and large, the parents who use choice care about their kids’ education and are likely more involved. Parental involvement and support for education in the home are critical factors for student success.
But the other huge factor is the quality and nature of the education being provided. Not all schools provide a good education and not all education styles work for every student. Giving parents the ability to choose a god school that delivers education in a way that works for their kids is another critical factor for student success.