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Featured Policy Brief: "How Has the Louisiana Scholarship Program Affected Students? A Comprehensive Summary of Effects after Three Years"

June 26, 2017

Three studies examine the effects of the Louisiana Scholarship Program, a statewide school voucher initiative.

Released jointly by the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University, the reports analyze the program’s impact on student achievement, students’ identification to receive special education services, and school participation during the initiative’s first three years.

The studies’ authors will present their findings at an event at 10:30 a.m. EST on Monday, June 26, at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. A live webcast of the event will be available on the Urban Institute’s website.

Previous evidence revealed that the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP) had large negative effects on student outcomes in both English and math after one year, but researchers say that by the third year, the performance of LSP scholarship users was statistically similar to their counterparts in both ELA and math.

Additionally, the authors’ findings varied across students. “We found that the subgroup of students who were lower achieving before applying to the program did show significant gains in English three years later, and LSP scholarship recipients entering lower grades demonstrated significant losses in math,” said lead author Jonathan Mills.

Researchers also found that students with disabilities made up 13% of eligible LSP applicants for the 2012-13 cohort (1,275 students). This proportion, as well as the distribution of specific disabilities among LSP applicants, was relatively similar to Louisiana’s population of students with disabilities.

“Our results are surprising, given that the LSP scholarship amount is less than the resources offered to public schools,” said author Sivan Tuchman. “We also concluded that LSP scholarship users were more likely to lose their special education status after two years and less likely to be newly identified as a student with a disability by their third year in the program.”

Finally, researchers look into the types of private schools choosing to participate in the program. Only a third of Louisiana private schools opted to participate in the program when it went statewide in 2012-13. Evidence shows participating private schools had lower tuitions, lower school enrollments, were more likely to be Catholic schools, and tended to serve a larger proportion of minority students than private schools who chose not to participate.

“These reports are part of an ongoing evaluation of the LSP,” said Patrick Wolf. “School choice interventions like the LSP can have a broad range of effects that often take time to develop. Comprehensive evaluation, therefore, is key to understanding the impacts of these interventions.”

The studies were authored by Jonathan N. Mills, Yujie Sude, Corey A. DeAngelis, and Patrick J. Wolf, from the University of Arkansas, as well as Sivan Tuchman from the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, Bothell.