Mathew Chingos and Paul Peterson have a nice piece “The Impact of School Vouchers on College Enrollment” in Education Next where they look at the effects (in terms of later college attendance) of providing modest size vouchers to poor kids in New York City. The two cent summary (you really should go read the original) is that African-American kids got a big boost from the vouchers but nothing much happened for Hispanic students.
Chingos and Peterson’s findings (which are similar to what other researchers have found) made me wonder how this fits into the weird argument over whether good schools can overcome poverty–or whether everything is hopeless unless we can eliminate child-poverty.
Here’s an experiment which for at least one group showed that getting kids to more effective schools did make a big difference: even though nothing changed about the kids’ home background. So score one for the schools-do-matter crowd.
But there is one important caveat. The experiment compared results for kids who won a lottery to attend a better school with kids who lost out. Both sets of kids had parents with the get-up-and-go to at least apply for the vouchers. So this particular experiment doesn’t necessarily tell us what better schools do for kids from homes with less education-active parents.