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Study: Invest in Kids scholarship students lag, but report called ‘meaningless’

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Tribune

Conducted by the nonprofit research agency WestEd, the 14-month study contrasts the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) reading and math scores of scholarship recipients in grades 3-8, with their public school peers. In 2022 and 2023, Invest in Kids recipients fared worse in both subjects. At the high school level, researchers juxtaposed students’ SAT performance, with mixed results. […]

Along with student performance on standardized tests, the WestEd study aims to assess “how private schools are organized to support students’ success,” drawing on a total of around 1,000 survey responses from students, parents and educators and interviews at 10 schools. Faith-based schools comprise the vast majority of schools that received Invest in Kids funds, according to the Dept of Revenue’s most recent annual report on the program. Researchers found that faith is “a critical organizing element in school culture, curricula, and interpersonal relationships,” according to the study. Just over 8 percent of teachers surveyed said they worked at an independent private school without a religious affiliation. […]

In 2022, 30 percent of public school students met or exceeded standards, compared to 21 percent of scholarship recipients, according to the report, which notes that in the following year, 35 percent of public school students met or exceeded reading standards, compared to 23 percent of Invest in Kids scholarship recipients.

“The same was true in Math for both 2022 and 2023,” the study continues. “Illinois public schools had a higher percentage of grades 3–8 students meeting or exceeding expectations than [Invest in Kids] scholarship recipients.”

* From the report

In both 2022 and 2023, Illinois public schools had a higher percentage of grades 3–8 students meeting or exceeding expectations in [English language arts] compared to IIKA scholarship recipients (in 2022, 30.1 percent to 20.8 percent, and in 2023, 35.4 percent to 22.5 percent respectively). The same was true in Math for both 2022 and 2023. Illinois public schools had a higher percentage of grades 3–8 students meeting or exceeding expectations than IIKA scholarship recipients (in 2022, 25.5 percent to 17.8 percent, and in 2023, 27.1 percent to 16.3 percent, respectively).

WestEd examined year-to-year gains by performance level, using 2022 as the baseline performance level and 2023 to calculate the gain or loss in scale score. Overall, the difference in the mean growth between IIKA Scholarship Recipients in private schools and students enrolled in public schools was not statistically significant, with two exceptions. Comparing students who achieved performance level 1 (“Did not yet meet expectations”) in ELA on the SY 2021/22 tests, scholarship recipients recorded a significantly larger increase in their 2022-23 scale score in ELA than the average public school student. But comparing students who achieved performance level 5 (“Exceeded expectations”) in ELA on the SY 2021/22 scholarship recipients recorded a significantly larger average decrease in their 2022-23 scale score in ELA compared to the average public school student.

* Save My Scholarship…

In a new report conducted for the Illinois State Board of Education that can be found here, analysts failed to compare low-income Tax Credit Scholarship recipients to their low-income counterparts in Illinois public schools. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) makes testing data readily available to sort by income levels, but researchers instead compared low-income scholarship recipients to all Illinois public school students, rendering the results meaningless because they lack proper context. In fact, low-income Tax Credit Scholarship recipients actually outperform their low-income counterparts enrolled in public schools in nearly every category according to ISBE’s own data.
 
Dr. Patrick Wolf, College of Education Department Head at the University of Arkansas, is offering his independent analysis of the test score data: “The evaluators made highly inappropriate comparisons between the average test score gains of the income-disadvantaged students in the program and the average gains for all public school students statewide. That comparison is apples-to-zebras and tells us nothing about the effect of the program on student achievement.”
 
“What belies this flawed study is the overwhelming satisfaction parents and students provided regarding their schools’ safety, climate, teachers, and educational opportunities. These findings demonstrate the immense value Invest in Kids gives to low-income scholarship families across the state of Illinois,” said Bobby Sylvester, executive director of Empower Illinois. “Parents and students showed above 95% agreement that their scholarship schools provide equitable access and opportunity to high-quality general academic programs. This highlights why the Illinois legislature must renew the Invest in Kids Act (IIKA) to help level the playing field for low-income students.”

Here are some highlights of the qualitative polling of IIKA scholarship parents:

    * 98% say their school environment is safe.
    * 98% say their school climate is positive.
    * 98% say their teachers care about their child(ren).
    * 98% say their children are getting a quality education.
    * 97% say students of all backgrounds have equitable access and opportunity to high- quality general academic programs.
    * 97% say their school has high expectations for student behavior.
    * 96% say students of all backgrounds have equitable access and opportunity to receive academic support (e.g., remediation, tutoring).
    * 95% say students of all backgrounds have equitable access and opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.

 

Similarly, scholarship students offered high praise:

    * 95% feel safe at school.
    * 95% say students of all backgrounds have equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.
    * 94% say their teachers care about me.
    * 94% can get help from teachers if needed.
    * 94% say students of all backgrounds have equal opportunity to receive academic extra help or tutoring.

Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, director of government affairs for Agudath Israel of Illinois, added, “While the parental survey polling data highlights the enthusiastic parent satisfaction we expected, we are disappointed with how the researchers did not compare comparable test scores. Instead, low-income scholarship recipients’ test scores were compared to all average Illinois public school students. Despite this inequity, the low-income scholarship students performed admirably, especially on their SATs in high school. We know if researchers had compared scholarship students to equally low-income public school students, those who received the benefit of a Tax Credit Scholarship would have scored much higher than their lower income-equivalent counterparts.”
 
“Regarding special education services, school officials shared their concerns with researchers about the state’s current lack of financial resources allocated to educate students in private schools with behavioral issues and those who require more specific special education services,” said Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois. “Members of the General Assembly who are champions for kids should note that schools expressed an interest in adding special education opportunities, counseling, and after-school programs if funded.”
 
The Invest in Kids Act Tax Credit Scholarship Program is an investment in opportunities for kids, poverty reduction, and economic acceleration. The General Assembly’s failure to take action in 2023 to save the program will cause over 14,000 students from low-income families to lose their scholarships and now may have to leave their best-fit schools. Reinstating the program this spring is unmistakably the right thing to do.
 

       

32 Comments
  1. - Perrid - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 10:47 am:

    Shouldn’t the point of the scholarship be to have the kids do better? If they’re still underperforming it seems like it calls the program into question. If you want to argue that’s not apples to apples, fine, but the scholarship students self selected to get a scholarship. So it’s not a random sampling, so comparing to other “low income” students is still not apples to apples.


  2. - Proud Papa Bear - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 10:54 am:

    The right loves to bash public education without regard to factors like socioeconomics, but when it comes to their wants it’s all nuance.


  3. - Hahaha - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 10:55 am:

    Dems rightfully point out that student outcomes are often tied to the economic situation of the community surrounding a school. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that if you take a group of economically disadvantaged students and measure outcomes, they would fare worse than the average. What they should be judged against is the outcomes of their economic peers or their peers attending the public schools they would have been forced to attend if not for Invest in Kids.


  4. - Sous - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:00 am:

    By the public school and teacher’s union logic, when performance lags it means that more investment is needed. Not happy with K-12 performance? Set an “adequacy” target and invest hundreds of millions more per year.

    So this report tells me that instead of ending Invest In Kids, we should dramatically increase the credit until the results are better.


  5. - Donnie Elgin - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:03 am:

    If they’re still underperforming

    It was a study that showed aggregate performance - it was not leveled by comparing similar low-income student results in public schools - and has no basis in real life - so say a kid wishes to go s to St Thomas More School in Elgin - most of the local U46 schools in the area are listed as comprehensive which is ISBE speak for being in the lowest 5%. I suppose we are to believe the kids are better off stuck in the failing public rather than getting a little help from Invest in kids and having much better potential outcomes.


  6. - Jerry - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:03 am:

    Oh c’mon Perrid. 4 out of dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients that chew gum. Trident gum said that in a tv commercial so it MUST be scientific fact. /s


  7. - Former Downstater - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:06 am:

    @Sous, you are free to increase your contributions to private schools in whatever amount you desire.


  8. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:09 am:

    Reminds me of the years-old “debate” between CPS charter schools vs. neighborhood schools test scores as it played out in the Trib vs. the Sun Times. Trib said charter schools did better, Sun Times busted them for using old data and reported current data showed no difference.

    Further investigation showed “all” the charter schools were doing was “expelling” kids with disabilities & IEPs, who couldn’t sit still, the class comedian, the kid(s) you didn’t want your kid exposed to, the kid(s) whose parents didn’t participate.


  9. - Wobblies United - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:14 am:

    “We know if researchers had compared scholarship students to equally low-income public school students, those who received the benefit of a Tax Credit Scholarship would have scored much higher than their lower income-equivalent counterparts.”

    So the counter to a study that provides literally real life data is being described as meaningless because Mr. Soroka just knows….

    I have always wondered…if these scholarships were so overwhelmingly given to low-income and minority students then why have advocates never released data proving this? It seems like a very simple way to clearly prove your point….But then again I guess advocates think their feelings and beliefs are what drives reality and not facts and data.


  10. - Frida's boss - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:17 am:

    @Perrid- So who should they compare to?

    Shouldn’t scholarship low-income inner-city kids be compared to non-scholarship low-income inner-city kids?

    Or low-income suburban scholarship recipients compared to low-income non-scholarship public school kids?

    If not then what do you use to compare? When all you want are outcomes that fit your narrative of removing the scholarship.


  11. - Al - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:23 am:

    I have a friend who always cheers for teams playing against Catholic Schools in college basketball. One day after years of noticing this behavior I inquired why he never likes any of the Catholic teams in the matchups. He said when his family moved to Springfield they went to the Catholic School and they admitted his brother but they wouldn’t admit my friend. Why would the Catholic School deny him admission? He has a disability. However that didn’t prevent him from Wrestling in High School at public schools.


  12. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:27 am:

    I hate Invest in Kids with the heat of a thousand suns, but it is correct that this comparison is worthless. As I read the report (or glanced it, more properly,) it looks like they were comparing scholarship kids to state averages. That’s bogus. You’re going to compare an inner-city scholarship student to an average that includes New Trier?


  13. - H-W - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:29 am:

    I would suggest both models are not constructed properly. If I were to design a comparison, I would want to see how IIKA students compare to the average scores of the schools they would otherwise be attending.

    Comparing IIKA students to the state average is in fact a flawed model. But so too is comparing IIKA students to poor students, since many of the IIKA students are not coming from poor families - some are middle income families.

    But if we were to model this by taken each students score in ratio with the average score for the children in the schools they left behind, we would have a better model. Not a perfect model, but a better one.


  14. - supplied_demand - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:30 am:

    ==You’re going to compare an inner-city scholarship student to an average that includes New Trier? ==

    The opponents of public schools, specifically CPS, make this type of comparison all the time. It’s all FUD on all sides.


  15. - Cool Papa Bell - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:36 am:

    =failure to take action in 2023 to save the program will cause over 14,000 students from low-income families to lose their scholarships=

    No one is preventing any person from donating to a private school or establishing a scholarship.

    If it’s that important to someone then they should have already been donating and should continue to donate with or without a tax break.


  16. - Thomas Paine - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:43 am:

    Hold on just a second please, everyone.

    First, all of the data tells us that the kids who are getting scholarships are not “low income,” doesn’t it? So, claiming the study is unfair because of the comparison group selection seems bogus to me.

    Secondly, social media is awash with posts from the Illinois Policy Institute, Awake Illinois, Paul Vallas, and other claiming that CPS is failing our kids because the percent of CPS students meeting state standards is low, and Stacy Davis-Gates’ and the CTU are to blame.

    So, by their own standards, aren’t the scholarship program and the private schools failing our kids, and shouldn’t we blame the private schools and their backers?

    If my logic is off, please help me.


  17. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:45 am:

    The Save My Scholarship critics follow their critique of the state’s data with the results of an even less rigorous poll which they then use to justify their position. My head is spinning.


  18. - Thomas Paine - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:48 am:

    As an aside, I don’t think you can really put too much stock in the survey funded by the private schools without more info. People will say alot when they believe their answers will determine whether or not they will continue to recieve thousands of dollars.

    It would be helpful to have surveys of kids that did not recieve scholarships, for example. But 95% of middle school kids being thrilled with school is so far off the charts it arouses suspicion.


  19. - Frida's boss - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:52 am:

    No one is preventing anyone from donating to a private school, totally true.
    Without those donations, it will prevent a low-income kid who wants that scholarship from attending a private school, also true.

    Which is more important what the kid wants, what the tax-break person wants, or what IEA/IFT/CTU wants in removing the option?


  20. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:53 am:

    Of course performance metrics are meaningless.

    That was never the point of the program in the first place.

    It was and is a program to transfer public money to a religion swamped with abuse settlement payouts.


  21. - walker - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 11:53 am:

    Oh, you mean the “Save My Disproportionate Tax Break” people?

    What Cool Poppa Bell said. They of course should continue to donate if they really believe in Invest In Kids.


  22. - TNR - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 12:13 pm:

    I’m with @Soccermom

    No fan of the program, but the Invest in Kids students should be compared to a peer group.


  23. - Southsider - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 12:34 pm:

    Biased study commissioned by bureaucrats who don’t like private schools. Next time compare apples to apples not poor kids to everyone else in the state.


  24. - Rudy’s teeth - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 12:52 pm:

    If only the Catholic Church used the millions upon millions it pays to settle sex abuse lawsuits to fund their schools, there would be no need for Invest in Kids scholarships.


  25. - SammyG - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 1:02 pm:

    If you look at the data Illinois Families for Public Schools released, you can see that most kids in the program were over 200% of the poverty line, and came from areas with good schools like Skokie and Niles.

    The IIK supporters are pushing the line that every student is low income when they aren’t


  26. - Frida's boss - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 1:15 pm:

    If only CPS wouldn’t continue to have abusers in their schools, per their admittance they have removed 21 personnel this year so far from schools due to claims of abuse.

    “Beyond the volume of complaints we have also seen more serious allegations,” said Amber Nesbitt, CPS deputy inspector general. “So just in 2024, actually as of this morning, we are at 21 staff members have been pulled or blocked compared to nine last year.”- ABC News


  27. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 3:04 pm:

    =If only CPS wouldn’t continue to have abusers in their schools,=

    The catholic church would like a word.


  28. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 3:12 pm:

    @Thomas Paine +1

    Private and parochial school supporters have always been very vocal in their assertion that their students perform better than their public school peers. In my 30 years in public education I have never been able to see their data and they never claimed that it was about low income. The data does not support their assertion.

    Using data for sub groups and making comparisons with like groups is valid, this study does not do that. But that does not invalidate the study one bit. The comparison made was not about low income, it was broader. The parsing on the IIK side is a bit much. In addition, data tells us that the IIK program was limited to socio economic need.

    They want he public dollars or some of them will need to close shop. I get that. But the job of the public at large is not to support their very specific cohort. Private and parochial schools have always relied on tuition and donations. What has changed?

    =I suppose we are to believe the kids are better off stuck in the failing public rather than getting a little help from Invest in kids and having much better potential outcomes.=

    Believe whatever you want but no one here stated that. But nice strawman.


  29. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 4:28 pm:

    ==by bureaucrats who don’t like private schools==

    What they don’t like are private schools funded by public dollars.


  30. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 6:17 pm:

    = =by bureaucrats who don’t like private schools==

    And, as if being a bureaucrat is some how a bad thing. These are the people that make government function. You know, regular everyday workers who pull their own weight.


  31. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 6:42 pm:

    “they have removed 21 personnel this year”

    Abusers are everywhere. That’s not the problem. The problem is abusers are being protected in the church when they are caught, instead of removed.

    Looks like CPS is doing the correct thing when these things come to light by removing the offenders immediately.

    Meanwhile, the priest who was a principal at Providence HS in New Lenox is had a multi-million dollar civil abuse lawsuit payout last year.

    During another incident involving the same priest, in the middle of an active investigation, the cell phone in question and directly involved in the accusation made - just vanished. The diocese suddenly didn’t know where the phone was, and the police response was ‘oh well, guess our investigation is over now’.

    You go ahead and let me know when public schools are destroying evidence during an active investigation by the police, who then just throw up their hands and walk away.

    https://patch.com/illinois/newlenox/inexcusable-abuse-survivors-blast-inaction-amid-mcgrath-accusations


  32. - GoodGuy - Wednesday, Feb 28, 24 @ 9:48 pm:

    “Members of the General Assembly who are champions for kids should note that schools expressed an interest in adding special education opportunities, counseling, and after-school programs if funded.”

    This has worked in exactly zero other states.


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