Public Policy Forum Blog

New rules for voucher schools having an impact

In the Forum's 12th annual census of schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), we found that recent regulation changes have had an impact on the number of schools participating in the program. Between the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, the program saw far fewer new schools join and many other schools close or drop out of the program. Thirteen of the 14 schools that closed were not accredited, which was a new requirement that became fully phased-in last year.

In addition, a rule put in place for the 2009-10 school year that requires schools new to the program to obtain pre-accreditation seems to have dramatically reduced the number of new schools this year. Over the past decade the program was averaging 11 new schools a year, but this fall just three schools joined the program. Many, if not most, of those new schools were start-up schools, but the three schools joining the program this year are all established schools. The pre-accreditation requirement, which was intended to ensure new schools have a solid operational and educational footing, seems to be having an impact.

We also examined the potential impact of new regulations requiring schools to administer state standardized tests and to report MPCP student test scores. Starting in the 2010-2011 school year, all MPCP schools will be required to administer to MPCP students the same state standardized tests as public schools.

Nearly all schools in the program administer standardized tests and 37% of schools administer the Wisconsin state test. This rule will require the two-thirds of schools that use a test other than the state test to either switch tests or to add in the state test.

Another new rule kicks in this August, when schools will, for the first time, be required to report MPCP student test scores to the state Department of Public Instruction. Of the 112 schools in the program this year, 102 administer at least one type of standardized test and are expected to be able to report test scores in the fall.

For more information and for updated data on enrollment trends, schools gaining and losing the most MPCP students, schools’ racial make-up, and the aggregate high school drop-out rate see the full report.

Click here for complete 2009-10 data and a directory of all participating schools.

Anneliese Dickman