The School Choice Demonstration Project (SCDP) at the University of Arkansas has released a report examining the experiences and outcomes of families participating in the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), the only federally-funded school voucher program in the U.S. operated by CSF partner, the Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF). On January 2004, President Bush signed the District of Columbia School Choice Act into law, bringing OSP to life with $14 million in funding. Scholarships are available of up to $7,500 per child each year for tuition to attend private schools of their choice. The SCDP research team spent four years engaging selected groups of families in focus groups and interviews.
The study finds that parents tend to be highly satisfied with the program, many of them reporting that their child has a better attitude toward school since receiving a scholarship. Here are some notable findings:
“The source of their satisfaction stemmed from what parents and students perceived as greater parental involvement in their child’s education, improved safety and stricter discipline, smaller classes, religious-based instruction, enhanced curriculum, and effective support services such as tutoring and mentoring.”
“Perhaps the single most consistent response voiced in the focus groups was the high levels of satisfaction reported by each subgroup and cohort. Even in situations where parents complained or expressed disappointment with some aspect of their experience, they still gave the Program high marks. Their satisfaction seems to stem from at least three major factors. First, they report that their children are doing well…Second, parents give WSF a lot of credit for the way OSP has been managed…Last and perhaps most important, many of them expressed appreciation for the fact that they made the choice.”
At the core of this study is the appreciation parents expressed for choices and opportunities, which goes hand in hand with CSF’s goal of giving parents a choice, and giving children a chance. The study relates, “The parents repeatedly expressed that the scholarship presented an “opportunity” to pursue what they perceived were better schools or schools that were more conducive to providing the type of learning environment most appropriate for their children.”
For the full report, please go to: http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/SCDP.html.