Flaws Riddle Private School Voucher Report

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The favorable private school voucher study paid for by the state’€™s leading private school voucher advocates is riddled with fundamental research flaws, implying the “study” was designed to reach a pre-conceived conclusion in favor of a particular political agenda.

That the state’s leading private school voucher gang funded a study that supports the private school voucher agenda is hardly surprising.Unsurprising as well, if you examine the methodology closer, there is clear evidence the goal of the exercise was simply to advance the pro-private school voucher agenda. The three most prominent research flaws are sampling bias, logical fallacy and confirmation bias. Factors to consider when reviewing the private voucher report include:

Incredibly Limited Sample: Nearly 20,000 students were in private voucher school, but the study focused on 360 students in seven schools in one grade. The vast majority of private voucher students are in the elementary grades, yet the study focused 12th grade only ‘€“ in a handful of school. Twelfth graders comprise less than four percent of the total private voucher enrollment.

Admission Criteria Ignored: At least three of the four large high schools participating in the private voucher program have pre-admission screening, allowing them to reject students, unlike public schools, which thankfully accept all students.

Difference in Graduation Requirements Ignored: There is no discussion about the inevitable differences between the graduation requirement of these different private voucher schools and MPS, and whether all private voucher schools meet graduation requirements for credits in English, math, reading and sciences. The lack of information about the specific course requirements of private voucher schools alone is enough to seriously skew the results.

Schools vs. Parents. The author admits parental involvement is not factored into the study. That more reputable research in the last few years showed that voucher parents do more in-school activities, as well as that MPS parents read more with their children, may also skew the findings.  There is no exploration of this critical issue.

Mobility, MPS Student Loss Ignored. MPS high schools have a student mobility rate of 22 percent in high school ‘€“ within four years, 80 percent of the students in a given class could have come and gone. MPS enrollment has fallen, while private voucher school enrollment has risen.

There are reputable studies on all sides of this debate. And with apologies to my terrific public school English teachers over the years, this ain’€™t one of ‘em.

Unexplored in the findings was neither a discussion about recent increases in MPS graduation rates, nor the vast swing up and down over the past several years by as much as 20 percent in a single year for private voucher schools. Lastly, much news was made about a previous report showing test scores between MPS and private voucher students to be identical, an important point, which may ultimately be the impetus for this manipulated report.

In addition to this report, One Wisconsin Now recently showed that a University of Wisconsin polling project downplayed opposition to private school vouchers after a conservative think tank paying for the polling raised political concerns, according to documents obtained by One Wisconsin Now. More information on this can be found at

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Scot Ross served as Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute from 2007 to 2019.