How effective is the DC Opportunity voucher program?

Evaluating school vouchers in Washington, DC


The District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) is the only federally funded program that provides tuition vouchers to low-income parents who want their child to attend a private school. A total of 14 states also fund private school vouchers for at least some groups of students. The merits of voucher programs continue to be debated, and there is interest in understanding whether the programs are effective.


The evaluation is collecting information over 3 years from nearly 1,800 students and their families who applied to receive a scholarship. By conducting lotteries of students who apply for the scholarship, the evaluation can compare results for students who receive a scholarship to results for students who do not.

The evaluation will measure the program’s impact on

  • Student achievement in reading and math
  • Student and parent perceptions of school safety
  • Student and parent satisfaction with their school
  • Parent involvement


The latest report, Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts Three Years After Students Applied, found that the program had the following effects for students offered or using the scholarship

  • No statistically significant impacts on reading or mathematics test scores
  • A positive impact on student rates of chronic absenteeism
  • No statistically significant impacts on parents’ satisfaction with their child’s school and parents’ perceptions of school safety
  • A positive impact on students’ satisfaction with the school they attended and students’ perceptions of school safety
  • No statistically significant impact on parent involvement in education


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