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National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After One Year
NCEE 2007-4009
June 2007


The DC School Choice Incentive Act of 2003 established the first federally funded private school voucher program in the United States, providing scholarships of up to $7,500 for low-income residents of the District of Columbia to send their children to local participating private schools. The law also mandated that the Department conduct an independent, rigorous evaluation of what is now called the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), to assess the impact of the program on academic achievement, school safety, and other outcomes. The impact evaluation is a randomized controlled trial that compares outcomes of eligible public school applicants randomly assigned to receive or not receive a scholarship through a series of lotteries.

The third-year report, Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After One Year, contains the following key findings:

  • No evidence of a statistically significant difference in test scores between students who were offered an OSP scholarship and students who were not offered a scholarship.
  • The program had a consistently positive impact on parent satisfaction and their perceptions of school safety.
  • Students who were offered OSP scholarships did not report being more satisfied with school or feeling safer in school than those without access to scholarships.
  • This same pattern of findings holds when the analysis is conducted to determine the impact of using a scholarship rather than being offered a scholarship, taking into account the approximately 20 percent of students who were offered but chose not to use their scholarships the first year.