School Choice in Washington D.C.: An Evaluation After One Year

Patrick J. Wolf, William G. Howell and Paul Peterson
Year of publication: 
PEPG 00-08

In the fall of 1997 the Washington Scholarship Fund announced the expansion of a previously establishment, privately-funded school voucher program in Washington, D.C originally established in 1993. In the spring of 1998, over six thousand students from public and private schools applied to the new program; of these initial applicants, over one thousand were offered scholarships.

WSF awarded scholarships by lottery, thereby making it possible to conduct an evaluation designed as a randomized field trial. This evaluation examines the impact of the first six to seven months of the WSF program on the students in grades 2-8 who had previously been attending public school but shifted to private schools in the fall of 1998. Specifically, the evaluation estimates the program’s impact on student test scores in reading and mathematics as well as other educational and social outcomes, as reported by parents and students. In 1999 the Children’s Scholarship Fund, a nationwide school-choice scholarship program, provided additional support to the WSF program.