Historic Opportunity Scholarship Program Evaluation Aims to Deliver Accountability

Raleigh, NC (May 8, 2017) — Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) announces its support of a first-of-its-kind independent evaluation comparing the test performance of North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship recipients with their peers in public schools. A research team from North Carolina State University (NC State) is conducting the evaluation, and statewide testing is already underway for students participating.

Drawn from representative locations across North Carolina, a sample of a few hundred students who are current Opportunity Scholarship recipients will participate in voluntary testing sessions at private schools. NC State has also been collaborating with school districts to generate a matched comparison group of public school students. Both Opportunity Scholarship students and public school students are taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), a nationally-normed, standardized achievement test. Student tests will be scored by a third-party testing company; results will be returned to NC State researchers, who will compare the two groups’ test performance in reading, written expression, and mathematics.

The test comparison represents the second phase of NC State’s wide-ranging evaluation, and is funded by private contributions. Data collection efforts to date also include focus groups, surveys, and analysis of Opportunity Scholarship application data; these results will be shared in public reports beginning this summer. Findings from the test comparison will be released in a public report this fall. For an in-depth explanation of the evaluation, download a copy of the Spring 2017 Academic Impact Analysis Plan.

PEFNC’s president, Darrell Allison, applauded the testing analysis, saying, “We’ve long believed that accountability for the Opportunity Scholarship Program would require an assessment comparing scholarship recipients to their peers in public school. This evaluation does just that, while also providing critical qualitative feedback on the Program as well.”

Allison added, “It is vitally important to our organization that we all, as a coalition of K-12 stakeholders, work together for accountability in our state’s schools. I want to thank agencies that helped make this possible, including the NC State Education Assistance Authority, the NC Department of Public Instruction, and the NC Division of Non-Public Education for providing excellent professional service with regards to this project. Finally, we have worked closely with NC State over the last several months to ensure this testing analysis could take place. It is our hope that by engaging in this process, we will lay a firm foundation for real and ongoing accountability in this Program.”  

This initial independent evaluation is supported by lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle.

“The General Assembly is committed to helping ensure all children have the opportunity to access a high-quality education – and the Opportunity Scholarship Program helps fulfill that commitment by increasing school choice for students and families across the state, regardless of their income or zip code,” said NC Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. “I commend Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina not just for helping put students on an education pathway that best suits their needs, but also for taking leadership in this effort to make sure students achieve their goals once they follow that path.”

NC Senator Erica Smith-Ingram, a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, said, “In our North Carolina Constitution, we say we afford all of our students a strong education. I’m confident that this evaluation will serve as a critical next step in making sure that children who benefit from the Opportunity Scholarship are also learning well and producing results in the classroom. In February, I along with seven other Legislative Black Caucus colleagues, including Senator Joel Ford, Senator Ben Clark, Representative Rodney Moore, Representative Ed Hanes, Representative Elmer Floyd, Representative Cecil Brockman, and Representative Kelly Alexander, stood united for educational choice in our state. I reaffirm that commitment today, knowing that both our public and private school leaders are coming together to participate in this evaluation.”  

Smith-Ingram is joined by fellow Democrat, NC Representative Ed Hanes, who said, “I’ve seen firsthand the need for educational options right in my home district. When families exercise choice, they also need to know their children are getting the best education possible. I tip my cap to education leaders in our state who have stepped up to push for this evaluation this year. The time is now!”

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore added, “It is encouraging to see our school systems and education leaders working together to ensure that every student in our state gets the best education possible.” 

For more information contact Brian Jodice at brian@pefnc.org or (919)995-0741.

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PEFNC is a statewide organization that supports greater educational options through parental school choice, such as public charter schools and the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Our mission is to inform parents of the benefits of expanded options and empower them to exercise freedom in meeting their children’s needs, regardless of race, national origin, income or religion.

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