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

Characteristics of Students in the Impact Sample

Students in the impact sample were either rising kindergartners or attending DC public schools in the year they applied for the OSP. The characteristics of the impact sample students when they applied reflect the Program's income eligibility criteria and priorities as specified in the authorizing legislation:

  • Their average household at the time of application had almost three children supported by an annual income of $17,356.
  • Although 80 percent of their mothers reported having a high school diploma, only 6 percent said they had a bachelor's degree; 58 percent of the mothers reported working full time.
  • Nearly 90 percent were identified by their parents as African American, and 9 percent were identified as being of Hispanic ethnicity.
  • Twelve percent were described by their parents as having special needs.
  • They are evenly divided between males and females.
  • About 44 percent of the impact sample was attending public schools designated SINI between 2003 and 2005.
  • The average impact sample student at the time of application had a reading scale score of 608 and a math scale score of 588, which equate to the 33rd National Percentile Rank (NPR) in reading and the 31st NPR in math.

After 1 year, 77 percent of the students awarded a scholarship were attending a participating private school. Fifteen percent of the students who were not awarded a scholarship were nevertheless enrolled in a private school. As has been true in other scholarship programs, not all treatment group students offered scholarships choose to attend a private school, and some students in the control group find their way into private schools even without a Program scholarship.

Impact sample students who used their OSP scholarship were enrolled in 47 of the 68 participating private schools and were clustered in those schools that offered the most slots to OSP students. Of the students in this group, 8.4 percent were attending a school charging tuition above the statutory cap of $7,500 in their first year in the Program, even though 39 percent of all participating schools charged tuitions above the cap at that time. The average tuition charged at the schools that these scholarship students attended was $5,253 but varied between $3,400 and $24,5455. The average OSP student in this group attended a school with 177 students—somewhat smaller than the average of 236 students across the full set of participating schools. These OSP students are concentrated in the participating private schools with higher minority enrollments but with student/teacher ratios that are approximately representative of the entire set of OSP schools. Nearly two-thirds of these OSP students are attending participating schools operated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

In interpreting the presence or absence of Program impacts, it is important to understand the difference between the treatment and control groups in their educational environments and experiences. Examining the characteristics of the schools attended by students in the treatment and control groups suggests

  • There were no significant differences between treatment and control students in the characteristics of the public schools they attended at the time of application.
  • One year later, a similar proportion of students in the treatment and control groups were attending schools that offered libraries, gyms, special programs for advanced learners, individual tutors, art programs, and after-school programs.
  • One year later, students in the treatment group were more likely than those in the control group to have a computer lab or music program available to them at school. The treatment group was less likely to have access at school to a cafeteria, nurse's office, counselors, or special programs for either non-English speakers or students with learning problems.

5 The WSF reported that families were not required to pay for tuition out-of-pocket in almost all cases where the tuition charged by the school exceeded the $7,500 cap.