Louisiana Vouchers Actually Reduce School Segregation

University of Arkansas graduate students, Anna Egalite and Jonathan Mills, have an excellent piece in Education Next on the effects of Louisiana’s voucher program on integration in schools.  This is an important empirical question because the US Department of Justice has filed suit against the state’s voucher program over concerns that it undermines federal desegregation efforts.

Egalite and Mills find that when students use vouchers to switch from a traditional public school to a private school, they tend to improve the racial integration of the public school they are leaving.  A transfer improves integration if the student’s departure would make that school more closely resemble the racial composition of the metropolitan area in which it is located.  So, if an African-American student leaves a school that is more heavily African-American than the broader community in which it is located, his or her transfer is positive for integration.  And the reverse is true.  Here are their statewide results:

When Egalite and Mills focus on the 34 school districts that are under federal supervision for desegregation in Louisiana, they find that the voucher program contributes to improved integration both in the public schools from which students are transferring and the private schools that they are entering.  Here are the results for those 34 districts:

The political boundaries of school districts and attendance zones appear to be an important impediment to integrating schools.  If we remove those boundaries by letting students mix voluntarily, we actually see more integration.    Maybe assuming that everyone is a racist and having the federal government try to force them not to be so racist is a less productive strategy than trying to remove barriers to voluntary and positive mixing of people from different backgrounds and different neighborhoods.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed their lawsuit without bothering to do this type of analysis.  It will be fascinating to hear how they react to this evidence, but since they are closed right now I guess we’ll just have to wait for their response.

4 Responses to Louisiana Vouchers Actually Reduce School Segregation

  1. jean sanders says:

    This is in reference to some but not all charter schools; there is a mis-guided and perverse element in the schools that is detrimental to students. Wilson and Corbett came up with an 5 pronged strategy to develop talent in high-poverty schools and one of the prongs was “No Excuses.” It was coupled with very sound ideas abut community and building capacity with students, parents, schools. etc. Unfortunately, this suggestion has been stripped off from the other prongs of the improvement plan and has become the “CREED of no excuses.” What does it look like in a charter school? it leads to a pathological shaming of students and it has been predominant in the media to “punish” students for not responding appropriately to tests that require more/faster …. etc. It is a highly punitive system and some of my colleagues (age 75) remember it from the parochial schools where they went to school and hated it. (pathological shame) However, Jay Greene does not believe in all this “sociology stuff” so he would ignore this in any schools when doing an assessment and he would ignore consequential validity of the technical method he recommends.
    reference: Wilson, B. L. & Corbett, H.D. (2001). Listening to urban kids: School reform and the teachers they want. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

  2. jean sanders says:

    Even if you accept the graduate students’ work , what are the inferences for policy? People who read this blog do not know enough about history of American education. Brown 50 years later would be a good place to start , or The Troubled Crusade, or anything by Orfield or even by Havelock on the change process in a school (oops sorry, that last one strays too far into the social sciences for Greene’s appetite). Also, look into Casserly’s reports from the Great City Schools. It is insufficient to train a graduate student on technology and analysis of policy without a thorough grounding in history of public education; I have made that same suggestion to Education Next. I am sure your article will appear there tomorrow if it hasn’t already ; I notice the same authors appearing in all 3 places, Jay Green Blog, Harvard’s Education Next, and Fordham Institute. When they come out with headlines “teachers are pricey” I can see the real reason that they are pushing charter schools and technology. You take a small piece of what you term “research” and distort it through misinformation and phony headlines to make sweeping generalizations about all of education.

  3. per dirla come a loro americani. Buona vista! Louisiana Vouchers Actually Reduce School Segregation | Jay P. Greene's Blog

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