First ever school voucher programme with large negative impacts

NBER recently released a study on voucher programme in Louisiana called Louisiana Scholarship Progarmme (LSP).

LSP participation substantially reduces academic achievement. Attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. The negative impacts of vouchers are consistent across income groups, geographic areas, and private school characteristics, and are larger for younger children.

Most studies on vouchers show either positive or no effect. This is the first study in my knowledge which showed negative effects. Several hypothesis have been proposed,

1. Quality of public system alternatives

 even if the quality of voucher-participating private schools was identical in every city, they would all show different effects depending on the academic effectiveness of the publicly funded alternatives. 
2. Curriculum mis-alignment between private schools and the assessment tests of evaluation.

This demonstrates the importance of design of voucher systems which this blog argued earlier. Design can make or break the voucher idea and we need more research on this aspect. In Indian context, we haven't even progressed ahead of the zeroth stage, agreeing to experiment the voucher idea. In the absence of initiative from governments, researchers can play crucial role by building such evidence by testing the idea across multiple contexts.

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