St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Voucher impact study disputed
  • Federal funds let Medicaid programs grow
  • Stadiums not exempt from taxes
  • Around the state

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story

    printer version

    Voucher impact study disputed

    A study saying that schools improved because of the threat of vouchers is debunked by another study.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001

    Researchers at Rutgers University have raised doubts about the conclusions of a Florida researcher who found that low-performing schools owe their improvement to the threat of vouchers.

    "It is not at all clear that (academic improvement) resulted from the threat of vouchers as opposed to other aspects of the accountability program," reads a portion of a new report written by Gregory Camilli and Katrina Bulkley, both of Rutgers.

    The earlier study released in February gave a big boost to Gov. Jeb Bush's school accountability plan by providing an academician's stamp of approval. Written by Jay Greene, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, it was cited by lawmakers in Florida and Washington, and received widespread coverage.

    But the Rutgers researchers characterize Greene's findings as "generous and simplistic" and warn that it would be unwise to consider the puzzle of school reform solved.

    "The fact is nobody knows yet," said Camilli, professor of educational psychology at Rutgers. "There's a tendency to look for the "black box" theory for education policy. But to conclude that it was one thing, vouchers, and rule out other factors is impossible."

    Camilli points out that low-performing schools took multiple steps to improve achievement, including new instructional plans, new staff, and additional resources. Given all those changes, Camilli concludes, it is impossible to isolate the threat of vouchers as the cause of improvement.

    In keeping with the tenor of the voucher debate, both studies are sure to have plenty of advocates and detractors. Vouchers remain one of the most divisive issues in education today, and Florida -- with the nation's only statewide voucher program -- is seen as something of a petri dish for the experiment.

    In their respective reports, both Greene and Camilli cite the high stakes of their research.

    "These results are particularly relevant because of the similarities between the Florida A+ choice and accountability system and the education initiatives proposed by President George W. Bush," Greene wrote in his report.

    Though they have followed their reports with combative e-mails to each other, in interviews Thursday both Camilli and Greene said they agree in some areas.

    Greene said that in his report he wrote that his study "cannot be considered definitive" as the effects of Florida's program might change over time. Greene also agreed that although his study focused on the impact of the voucher threat, "any sensible approach to school reform has to address incentives (vouchers) and resources (more money, or different uses of money)."

    For his part, Camilli agreed that Florida's low-performing schools did improve, and that some aspect of the accountability plan spurred that.

    Educators are not surprised that different researchers have reached different conclusions, given the complexity of school improvement. Some applauded the researchers for their part in an important debate.

    "Different states are trying different things, so it would be nice to know what works," said Joseph Creech, director of educational policies for the Southern Regional Education Board. "But things do not happen in a vacuum. To isolate one and say that's what affected it is pretty impossible."

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk