Florida Tax Credit Analysis find Participant Gains

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A careful analysis of test score gains by David Figlio of Northwestern University has found a modest but statistically significant gains for Florida tax credit students. The data in this study are messy, and Dr. Figlio admirably goes about sorting through the various issues in an even-handed fashion.

Figlio employs a regression discontinuity design to analyze the data, and his finding of a small but statistically significant academic gain fits quite comfortably with the larger random assignment literature, which find small year to year gains which accumulate over time.

One of the under-appreciated features of the random assignment literature: the studies usually fall apart after three or four years due to attrition in the control group. Our window into the academic benefits of choice is therefore limited. Figlio’s employment of a different analytical technique provides confirms previous findings, and may (?) open the door to longer term assessment. The challenges with the data described in this paper, however, suggest that it may not be easy.

Money quote from the study, with a definite echo of previous random assignment studies:

These differences, while not large in magnitude, are larger and more statistically significant than in the past year’s results, suggesting that successive cohorts of participating students may be gaining ground over time.

Good discussion of the results over at RedefinED, including a discussion of the baseline results (tax credit students are poorer and less Anglo). Emerson also puts this study in the context (Figlio also found positive public school effects associated with the Step Up for Students program).

So, the Step Up for Students program has now been found to help improve public school results, help improve participant academic gains, generates high levels of parental satisfaction. Sounds like a rock solid justification for expansion to me.


7 Responses to Florida Tax Credit Analysis find Participant Gains

  1. Ayn Marie Samuelson says:

    “In sum, the report … tells us that struggling students are choosing the scholarship and that in the most recent year they were marginally outperforming their public school counterparts.”

    If tax credit students and parents gain, that is a positive. It will be informative to see how students and parents fare over several years. Programs need a track record to be considered reliable

    • It’s important to note that these gains are in comparison to public school students, whose test scores have increased due to the introduction of the credit program according to Figlio’s other excellent research findings.

      In other words, the program lifts all academic boats, and appears to lift those in the program most of all.

      Oh, and it saves money, with a cost about 1/3 of what is spent per child in the public schools on average.

  2. George mitchell says:

    Programs might need a (good) track record to be deemed reliable, but not to get financed. At least when it comes to K-12 public schools.

  3. And one more thing: it saves taxpayers $1.49 for every dollar it reduces state revenue, so it offers a direct 50% annual return on investment in addition to the return of improving education. Now that just might come in handy for states trying to balance their budgets!

    • allen says:

      A fact which ought to be more widely appreciated but so far isn’t. Although it does occur to me that those opposed to reform may understand the financial benefits of reform better then do supporters based on their misrepresentation of the costs involved.

      Those who oppose charters and vouchers charge that these reforms take money away from the public education system when the reduction in costs leaves more money available to be squandered by the public education system.

      Not that I’m surprised by dishonesty from defenders of the public education system but that so little is done to put the lie to the attack by those supportive of reform.

  4. […] entries for today. In the meantime, chalk another one up for the positive effects of school choice. Matt Ladner points us to a new study on one of the nation’s major education tax credit programs: A careful analysis of test score […]

  5. […] A new study of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship—which provides tax credits for businesses donating to organizations offering scholarships to K-12 students, similar to Pennsylvania's Educational Improvement Tax—finds academic gains for students receiving scholarships. Matthew Ladner summarizes the findings. […]

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