Sue Kingery Woltanski: What Causes More Learning Loss than the COVID Pandemic?
Vouchers. The answer is vouchers. In this post at Accountabaloney, Sue Kingery Woltanski takes a look at the work of Josh Cowen that shows that if you’re really panicking about the NAEP scores and the effects of the pandemic, you might want to consider some other things that cause drops in student test scores.
I was recently introduced to the work of Joshua Cowen by an episode of the edu-podcast “Have You Heard” entitled “Moving the Goalposts.” As always, it is worth a listen.
Cowen is a professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University. He also was the founding director and co-director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) from 2016 to 2020, where he studied the effectiveness of voucher programs. In his July 2022 op-ed in the Hechinger Report, entitled “After two decades of studying voucher programs, I’m now firmly opposed to them,” he explains why public money should no longer be funding private tuition. The answer: “these programs on balance can severely hinder academic growth — especially for vulnerable kids.” In fact, the losses seen in the Louisiana and Ohio Voucher studies EXCEED the losses seen following Hurricane Katrina and Covid.
Cowen’s Twitter feed (you should follow him, @joshcowenMSU) is full of data, charts and graphs that informed his conclusions – like this one, showing the effect of various policies and events on Student Math Achievement. And you though COVID was bad…
Cowen says he was initially “cautiously optimistic that vouchers could help.” He now says, “In 2022 the evidence is just too stark to justify the use of public money to fund private tuition.”
Many voucher advocates have shifted to an argument that focuses on choice as “just the right thing to do.” That may be a honest reflection of their beliefs; it might also reflect that vouchers are largely indefensible as a means of improving student achievement.