More systematic studies of student performance gains in private schools and the effects of competition on public school students’ performance likewise show that if vouchers have improved student learning in Milwaukee’s public schools, the effects are small. In 2006, the state of Wisconsin commissioned a group of academics to evaluate whether voucher students attending private schools (MPCP students) made larger gains in reading and mathematics over a four-year period than similar students in Milwaukee’s traditional public schools (MPS). The researchers applied Wisconsin state tests to a sample of private schools that had agreed to participate and compared the results annually with a matched set of public school students.
In this report, we make a somewhat different argument concerning vouchers and competition than has been made in the past. We suggest that a voucher program on a large scale, such as introduced in Milwaukee in the late 1990s, may have had a positive effect on student achievement in Milwaukee?s traditional public elementary schools (as argued by Hoxby (2
003) and Chakrabarti (2005)), but that this effect seems to have been a one-time response of all public schools to a change in contextual conditions rather than a continuous and differentiated improvement based on the degree of competition in the Milwaukee school market (see Van Dunk and Dickman 2003).