In 1999, the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) announced that it would award scholarships enabling low-income families across the United States to send their children in grades K-8 to the private school of their choice. The families of over 1.25 million children applied for scholarships; 40,000 were awarded. Because more families applied than could receive scholarships, recipients were chosen by lottery, enabling the research methodology of a randomized field trial to evaluate the program.
The power of random assignment combined with the size and national scope of the CSF offers researchers an unmatched look at the effects of attending private schools on both parents and students. This evaluation reports on the results of a telephone survey administered to applicants at the conclusion of the first school year in which CSF scholarships were used. Over 2,300 applicants and 850 children in applicant families in grades 4 through 8 were surveyed. Questions were asked on a variety of subjects, including the level of satisfaction with the school, reasons for choosing a school, experiences within the school, and family background characteristics.