Rajashri Chakrabarti of NY Fed has this insightful paper on the topic. He ppints how program design and proper incentives are crucial towards final objectives. He studies the voucher program which allows students to shift from public schiools to private schools. It gioves scholarship to students for the same. He studies two such programs one in Milwaukee and other in Florida.
Under the Milwaukee program, vouchers were imposed from the outset so that all low-income public school students became eligible for vouchers to transfer to private schools. In contrast, schools in the Florida program were first threatened with vouchers, with students of a particular school becoming eligible for vouchers only if the school received two “F” grades in a period of four years. Unlike the Milwaukee schools, threatened Florida schools had an opportunity to avoid vouchers. Using data from Florida and Wisconsin, the study shows that the performance effects of the threatened public schools under the Florida program exceeded those of corresponding schools in Milwaukee.
Chakrabarti concludes that program design is critical. That is, policies that present failing public schools with functional and credible sanctions are best suited to produce the results intended by education policymakers. The lessons of this study are broadly applicable to New York City’s educational reform efforts. As in Florida’s program, public schools in New York face valid sanctions if they fail to perform; therefore, the city’s low-performing schools have an incentive to avoid sanctions, and one would expect them to respond as Florida’s schools have.
Fascinating results. Program design and incentives….both are as crucial. I am running out of time. Would have liked to write more on this….