Program Overview:

  • EdChoice program enacted in 2005, with 2006-07 as the first year of implementation.
  • EdChoice eligible schools = D or F rating for two of the past three years on the state’s key accountability measures
  • To receive a voucher, parents and students first apply for admission to a participating private school. Once the student has been accepted, the private school submits a voucher application on behalf of the student.
  • Ohio requires that EdChoice program participants in private schools take the state exams - Ohio Achievement Assessments.
  • More than 18,000 students receive vouchers. Student data from 2003-04 to 2012-13. 
  • Two groups were compared: 1) students eligible for vouchers, but chose to remain in public school; and 2) students who took a voucher and attended a private school.

Main Findings: 

Those students leaving for private schools under the program tend to be more advantaged and higher performing than their peers who were edible to participate in the program but remained in public schools.  

  • While the students who participate in EdChoice—the pupils who actually use a voucher to attend private schools—are primarily low-income and minority children, they are relatively less disadvantaged than other voucher-eligible students. Figlio reports that more than three in four participants are economically disadvantaged, and three in five are black or Hispanic. Viewed in relation to Ohio’s public school population as a whole, students in EdChoice are highly disadvantaged—not surprising, given eligibility rules that require participants to have attended a low-achieving public school.
  • But relative to students who are eligible for vouchers but choose not to use them, the participants in EdChoice are somewhat higher-achieving and somewhat less economically disadvantaged.
  • This finding may be, in part, an artifact of the program’s basic design: It allows private schools to retain control over admissions, and a child must gain admission into a private school before he or she can apply for a voucher. This multi-step process might be more easily navigated by relatively more advantaged families; their children might also be more likely to meet the private schools’ admissions requirements.

The students who use vouchers to attend private schools have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools.

  • The study finds negative effects that are greater in math than in English language arts. Such impacts also appear to persist over time, suggesting that the results are not driven simply by the setbacks that typically accompany any change of school.
  • Quote from the findings in the report: “[T]he estimated effects of EdChoice participation on test scores are unambiguously negative across a variety of model specifications, for both reading and mathematics (though more negative for mathematics than for reading). The negative results are present regardless of whether we look at the same students in a panel setting or different sets of students, and they do not appear to change much over time, indicating that the initial negative results are not due to the fact that EdChoice participants all were newcomers in a new private school.”