The voucher program that was imposed on the District of Columbia with great fanfare four years ago is set to expire at the end of the next school year.

It’s also not likely to be renewed, which has set off a whole lot of howls by the fans of school privatization around here, including some high priced television ads.

But does it deserve to continue? Just how effective* has the voucher program been? In terms of things like student learning and not political advancement, that is.

For the second year in a row, researchers have found little to no overall difference in the standardized-test scores of students who are enrolled in private schools under the District of Columbia’s federally funded voucher program and their peers who attend public schools in the nation’s capital.

Specifically, for students who had attended public schools deemed to be failing before the students took part in the voucher program–a high-priority target for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program–the new federal study shows no statistically significant impacts on their test scores.

The researchers did find some improvements in reading skills in three subgroups making up the vast majority of students in the program.

Those three subgroups constituted 88 percent of students who are participating in the voucher program and included: students who attended schools that were not labeled as failing when they applied for vouchers; students who had relatively higher academic-performance levels before entering the program; and students who were voucher applicants in the program’s first year of operation, the 2004-05 school year.

In other words, most of the kids receiving these “scholarships” are not the ones for whom the creators of the plan claimed it would be helping, namely students from the worst schools who weren’t learning in the first place.

One more example of an effort to pay for private schools with public money producing mixed results at best.

Most voucher supporters want us to believe that applying business-style competition to schools will lead to better student learning (aka higher test scores)

However, the first goal of business-style competition is higher profits, not better products.

Kids are not products. The objective of school is not profit.

And we will not improve public education by shifting students from one traditional 1950’s style instructional setting to another, even if it is privately-owned.

[* I think this link will work without registering. If not, the gist of the information is also here.]