State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has completed a state statute required analysis of pupil test score data comparing test scores of Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students to test scores of students enrolled in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The key finding is that the data “show no significant difference in the performance of Choice pupils and similar MPS pupils after three years.”
Researchers with the School Choice Demonstration Project that are conducting a five-year study of Choice and MPS students firsts elected during the 2006-07 school year supplied the test score data to the LAB that also interviewed researchers and officials familiar with the Choice program. They indicated the five year study (The LAB’s report is the third of five) is the most comprehensive effort thus far comparing test scores of Choice and MPS students and the LAB reports the sampling techniques are described as “innovative and vigorous.”
THE LAB emphasizes there are limitations on information that can be studied, analyzed, and determined:
“Although we understand that individual pupils cannot be identified, we had initially believed that the project would provide us with data that identified the school attended by each Choice pupil who took the tests. However, citing confidentiality concerns, the project did not provide information on these pupils’ schools. Federal law generally requires written permission from parents or guardians before information about individual pupils may be released. In addition, project researchers signed agreements with their universities stipulating that they would not release information that identified pupils or the schools they attended, and they signed similar confidentiality agreements with Choice schools and the parents and guardians of Choice pupils. Because the data available to us do not identify the Choice pupils and schools, we are limited in what we can report and confirm. For example, these data do not allow us to provide legislators and other policymakers with information about academic performance specific to each of the 127 Choice schools that operated in the 2008-09 school year.”
The School Choice Demonstration Project reviewed the scores on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination reading and mathematics sections, that are scored separately, for pupils that were in the fifth through eighth grades or the tenth grade during the 2008-09 school year, and who also took the test during the 2006-07 school year. The LAB analyzed the project’s data and generally confirmed the results with some slight differences.
To determine whether enrollment and participation in the Choice program contributes to academic achievement, the project calculated the average changes in test scores from the 2006-07 to the 2008-09 school years for pupils in the Choice sample and the MPS matched sample. The LAB writes, “For the most part, the researchers did not find statistically significant differences in test score changes. However, they reported that the test scores of seventh-grade pupils in the Choice sample increased more, on average, than those in the MPS matched sample on the mathematics section, and the difference was statistically significant. We did not find any significant differences in the average changes in reading or mathematics scores between the 2006-07 and 2008-09 school years.”
The LAB also found that test scores for Choice and MPS pupils tend to increase as they progress to higher grade levels, regardless of any changes in their performance.
Choice schools will be required during the 2010-11 school year to administer the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination to all pupils in the third through eighth grades, as well as to those in tenth grade, and to annually report pupils’ scores to the Department of Public Instruction.
You can read the entire LAB letter report that contains several tables with tests score data here.