The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Summary of Final Reports
Research by the School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP), based in the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform, revealed a pattern of school choice results that range from neutral (no significant differences between the The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), also called the “Choice” program, and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS)) to positive (clear benefit to Choice). Although the researchers have examined virtually every possible way that school choice could systematically affect people, schools, and neighborhoods in Milwaukee, they have found no evidence of any harmful effects of choice.
The major findings from this last set of seven topical reports are that:
• Participation in MPCP continues to grow even as both MPCP and MPS have succeeded in closing or at least denying public funds to a substantial number of low-performing schools over the past five years (Report #33).
• Enrolling in a private high school through MPCP increases the likelihood of a student graduating from high school, enrolling in a four-year college, and persisting in college by 4-7 percentage points (Report #30).
• When similar MPCP and MPS students are matched and tracked over four years, the achievement growth of MPCP students compared to MPS students is higher in reading but similar in math. The MPCP achievement advantage in reading is only conclusive in 2010-11, the year a high-stakes testing policy was added to the MPCP (Report #29).
• When a snapshot of all MPCP students who took the state accountability test is compared to a snapshot of the performance of MPS students with similar income disadvantages, the MPCP students are performing at higher levels in the upper grades in reading and science but at lower levels in math at all grade levels examined and in reading and science in 4th grade (Report #32).
• Based on MPCP and MPS administrative data on MPCP students as well as parent surveys, between 7.5 and 14.6 percent of MPCP students have a disability, a rate at least four times higher than previously reported by DPI (Report #35).
• Visits to 13 MPCP schools revealed that many Choice students come to the schools behind by 1-2 years academically; the MPCP schools use various strategies to try to “catch them up” and prepare them for college and succeed with some but not all of them (Report #34).
• When similar independent public charter and MPS students are matched and tracked over four years, the achievement growth of the charter students compared to MPS students is similar in both reading and math, though conversion charters, which used to be private schools, clearly deliver higher achievement growth than MPS (Report #31).