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Evaluation of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program 1998-2001


Executive Summary



March 2003

THIS DOCUMENT CONCERNS THE CLEVELAND SCHOLARSHIP AND TUTORING PROGRAM AS ESTABLISHED PURSUANT TO OHIO REVISED CODE 3313.975, AND SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED WITH THE CLEVELAND SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM, INC.

This is the second annual report of a study focused on examining the operation and impact of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program (CSTP). The longitudinal project is investigating a wide range of issues associated with the operation and impact of the publicly-funded voucher program. However, in the current project year, the study was guided primarily by three questions:

  1. What are the characteristics of students who participate in the CSTP, and how do they compare with students who do not participate?
  2. What are the characteristics of the classrooms and teachers with whom scholarship students work in private schools, and how do they compare with the characteristics of classrooms and teachers in public schools?
  3. What is the impact of participation in the program on student academic achievement?

The current report presents the results of data collection and analysis over the period from autumn, 1998 through April, 2001. The project has been focused on a cohort of children who began their public or private schooling as first graders during the 1998-99 academic year and who were completing third grade in spring, 2001. These children represent three primary and two secondary groups of interest, and they provide multiple groups with whom scholarship (voucher) students may be compared. Primary groups include: (1) scholarship students who were awarded and use a voucher to attend private school; (2) applicant/non-recipients, who are public school students whose families applied for a scholarship but who were not selected to receive one; and (3) non-applicants, who are public school students whose families have never applied for a scholarship. Secondary groups include: (4) scholarship winner/nonusers, who represent a small group of public school students whose families applied for and were awarded a voucher, but whose families elected not to use the scholarship; and (5) former scholarship students, who were awarded, accepted, and used a voucher for private school enrollment for one or more years, but subsequently withdrew from the program to return to public schools.

What follows are major findings drawn from the more detailed technical and summary reports. It should be noted that, unless otherwise indicated, findings are based on the longitudinal cohort of students who are now in third grade.

Student Characteristics

  • A greater proportion of scholarship students are Caucasian and fewer are African American than public school students. However, the proportion of Hispanic and multiracial scholarship students is nearly twice that of public school students.
  • Third grade scholarship students, in general, are less likely to qualify for free lunch than public school students.
  • Students in both scholarship and public school groups are nearly equally male and female and most have attended the same school from first through third grade.
  • Most students in the cohort who entered the program after first grade had unsuccessfully applied for a scholarship in prior year, and the proportion of prior applicants was roughly the same for students who had been enrolled in private and public schools.
  • Across grades, students who accept their scholarship prior to the beginning of the academic year are nearly identical to their public school classmates in race/ethnicity and income. However, a majority of students who accept their scholarship after the beginning of the school year consists of students who were already enrolled in private schools, are of higher income, and are less likely to be African American.

Classroom and Teacher Characteristics

  • The vast majority of teachers in both private and public schools are fully certified, although the proportion is slightly greater in public schools.
  • Private school teachers had more experience and had been in their current schools longer than public school teachers.
  • Public school teachers were more likely to have completed some graduate coursework, but a majority of teachers in both groups had done so.
  • Class sizes were larger in private schools, and class size was positively related to student achievement (i.e., larger classes were associated with higher achievement).
  • Minority students in both public and private schools tended to be enrolled in smaller classes and with more experienced teachers than non-minority students, but non-minority students were more likely to work with fully certified teachers.

Student Achievement

  • There are no consistent, significant differences in achievement between scholarship and public school students by the end of third grade. This finding holds across all of the available achievement measures (reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and total battery).
  • Students who leave the program and enroll in public schools are achieving at lower levels than any other group in the study. Further, this pattern of comparatively low achievement generally continues for these students in public schools.

Conclusions

Findings from the most recent project period are not surprising. However, they do reinforce that policies and procedures for disseminating the scholarships have important implications for the program and the families who participate. Remaining unanswered are questions related to the long-term impact of the program on students, in academic and non-academic areas, and the context in which parents make choices about their children’s education. Further, and notably, the security of the program that results from the recent Supreme Court decision likely will influence the program in important ways.

The longitudinal study of the voucher program in Cleveland represents the longest running and only ongoing research of any publicly-funded voucher program in the United States. As such, it uniquely offers the opportunity to provide answers to many of these questions.