Patrick J. Wolf

University of Arkansas
Education Reform

University of Arkansas
201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR
72701
pwolf@uark.edu |  Visit Personal Website


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I continue to study school choice programs, including public charter schools and private school vouchers. My current projects include a best practices study of New Orleans charter schools, an effectiveness study of Arkansas charter schools, national studies of student funding equity in the presence of school choice, and an experimental evaluation of the statewide Louisiana voucher program.

Citation:
Bækgaard, Martin, Caroline Baethge, Jens Blom-Hansen, Claire Dunlop, Marc Esteve, Morton Jakobsen, Brian Kisida, John Marvel, Alice Moseley, Sorin Serritzlew, Patrick A. Stewart, Mette K. Thomsen, and Patrick J. Wolf. Forthcoming. “Conducting Experiments in Public Management Research: A Practical Guide.” International Public Management Journal.
Abstract: This article provides advice on how to meet the practical challenges of experimental methods within public management research. We focus on lab, field, and survey experiments. For each of these types of experiments we outline the major challenges and limitations encountered when implementing experiments in practice and discuss tips, standards, and common mistakes to avoid. The article is multi-authored in order to benefit from the practical lessons drawn by a number of experimental researchers.
URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10967494.2015.1024905
Citation:
Kisida, Brian, and Patrick J. Wolf. Forthcoming. “Customer Satisfaction and Educational Outcomes: Experimental Impacts of the Market-Based Delivery of Public Education,” International Public Management Journal.
Abstract: School choice, through private school vouchers or direct government subsidies, is a mechanism of outsourcing government services in the United States, Europe, South America, and the Pacific Rim. While extensive research exists on the effects of private school choice programs, nearly all focus on test score outcomes. Lost in the heated debates about the effectiveness of private school vouchers is substantial discussion of the effects on parental satisfaction. Drawing from a federally funded evaluation of a means-tested private school choice program in Washington, DC, we examine whether customer satisfaction is greater when education is delivered through a market-based governance structure. Because the program was oversubscribed in its early years of operation, vouchers were awarded by lottery, allowing us to experimentally determine the impacts. Our analysis reveals evidence that the program had a sustained positive impact on parental satisfaction. Moreover, positive student achievement and attainment impacts strengthen the validity of parental satisfaction as a reliable outcome measure.
URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10967494.2014.996629
Citation:
Fleming, David J., Joshua M. Cowen, John F. Witte, and Patrick J. Wolf. Forthcoming. “Similar Students, Different Choices: Who Uses a School Voucher in an Otherwise Similar Population of Students?” Education and Urban Society.
Abstract: We examine what factors predict why some parents enroll their children in voucher schools while other parents with similar types of children are from similar neighborhoods do not. Furthermore we investigate how aware parents are of their educational options, where they get their information, and what school characteristics they deem the most important. To answer these questions, we analyze the school choice patterns in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Using survey data, we compare responses from a representative sample of voucher parents and a matched sample of public school parents. While public school parents have higher incomes than voucher parents do, voucher parents have more years of education on average. We find that parents in both sectors rely heavily on their social networks to gain information about school options. Finally, we conclude that religion plays an important role in explaining why some parents use vouchers while others do not.
URL: http://eus.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/12/17/0013124513511268.full.pdf
Citation:
Witte, John F., Patrick J. Wolf, Joshua M. Cowen, Deven Carlson, and David F. Fleming. 2014. “High Stakes Choice: Achievement and Accountability in the Nation’s Oldest Urban Voucher Program,” Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 36(4), December 2014, pp. 437-456.
Abstract: This article considers the impact of a high-stakes testing and reporting requirement on students using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools. We describe how such a policy was implemented during the course of a previously authorized multi-year evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which provided us with data on voucher students before and after the reform, as well as on public school students who received no new policy treatment. Our results indicate substantial growth for voucher students in the first high-stakes testing year, particularly in mathematics, and for students with higher levels of earlier academic achievement. We discuss these results in the context of both the school choice and accountability literatures.
URL: http://epa.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/06/05/0162373714534521.full.pdf
Citation:
Stewart, Thomas, and Patrick J. Wolf. 2014. The School Choice Journey: School Vouchers and the Empowerment of Urban Families, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Abstract: Private school choice is many things. It is an education policy reform, a flash point of political controversy, and an example of government outsourcing of public service provision. It is also a journey for low income parents from clients of social services to consumers of goods and advocates for their own political interests. From 2004 until 2009, we carefully documented the school choice journey of 100 families participating in the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). The OSP is the nation’s only federally funded private school choice program. It provides K-12 tuition vouchers worth up to $7,500 to low-income students in the District of Columbia to attend any participating private school of their parent’s choosing. We conducted an annual series of focus group sessions and personal interviews with these low-income urban families, most of which were actively selecting the schools their children attend for the first time. The Journey reveals four key lessons: • Parents tend to follow Maslow's hierarchy of human needs when selecting schools. They first ensure that their child is safe at school before focusing on academic quality. • Unlike policy makers, parents don't view test scores as the key metric of success in education (or even as one of the main indicators of success). • Urban parents benefit from informational and programmatic supports when exercising school choice for the first time, but they also need to be respected as the shapers of their children’s education. • Low-income parents view private school choice programs as sufficiently valuable to them that they will fight hard to keep one if politicians try to take it away from them.
URL: http://www.amazon.com/School-Choice-Journey-Empowerment-Education/dp/1137442654/
Citation:
Cowen, Joshua M., David J. Fleming, John F. Witte, Patrick J. Wolf, and Brian Kisida. Forthcoming in 2013. “School Vouchers and Student Attainment: Evidence from a State-Mandated Study of Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program,” Policy Studies Journal. , 41(1), Winter 2013, pp. 147-167.
Abstract: Policymakers and scholars alike have looked to studies of school choice programs for evidence that students do “better” or “worse” in alternatives to the traditional public sector. Nearly all of these studies have focused largely on the performance of students on standardized tests (e.g. Greene, Peterson and Du 1998; Rouse 1998; Witte 2000; Howell et al. 2002; Metcalf et al. 2003; Cowen 2008; Wolf et al. 2010; Witte et al. 2012). Perhaps the most important alternative to student test scores as a measure of success in educational policy is attainment: reaching a given level of schooling such as a high school diploma, enrollment in post-secondary education, or earning a bachelor’s degree and beyond. Educational attainment is an important indicator for school quality because it may be a direct result of the development of academic and life skills related to a variety of valuable outcomes of interest to policymakers and employers. These include regular employment, aversion to criminal and other dysfunctional behavior, and the generation and growth of personal income and savings. In this article, we consider data from a state-mandated evaluation of the City of Milwaukee’s large, publicly funded school voucher program. Using propensity score matching to create comparable groups, we find that students that began our study in the voucher panel graduated from high school, enrolled in a four-year college, and persisted in college at rates that were 4-7 percentage points higher than students that began our study in the public school panel.
URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/psj.12006/full
Citation:
Wolf, Patrick J., and Michael McShane. 2013. “Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze? A Benefit/Cost Analysis of the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program,” Education Finance and Policy 8(1), Winter 2013, pp. 74-99.
Abstract: School voucher programs have become a prominent aspect of the education policy landscape in the United States. In the past six months alone, 10 voucher programs have been either created or significantly expanded, bringing the total number of such programs in states and localities to 14. State and local government officials, as well as federal policy makers should be concerned with the fiscal impacts of such programs. The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program is the only federally-funded voucher program in the U.S. Since 2004 it has offered publicly-funded private school vouchers to nearly 4,000 students to attend any of 73 different private schools in Washington, D.C. An official experimental evaluation of the program, sponsored by the federal government's Institute of Education Sciences, found that the students who were awarded Opportunity Scholarships graduated from high school at a rate 12 percentage points higher than the students in the randomized control group. This article estimates the benefit/cost ratio of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, primarily by considering the increased graduation rate that it induced and the estimated positive economic returns to increased educational attainment, finding a benefit to cost ratio of 2.62, or $2.62 in benefits for every dollar spent on the program.
URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/edfp/8/1
Citation:
Wolf, Patrick J., Brian Kisida, Babette Gutmann, Michael Puma, Nada Eissa, and Lou Rizzo. "School Vouchers and Student Outcomes: Experimental Evidence from Washington, DC," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(2), April 2013, pp. 246-270.
Abstract: School vouchers are the most contentious form of parental school choice. Vouchers provide government funds that parents can use to send their children to private schools of their choosing. Here we examine the empirical question of whether or not a school voucher program in Washington, DC affected achievement or the rate of high school graduation for participating students. The District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) has operated in the nation's capital since 2004, funded by a federal government appropriation. Because the program was oversubscribed in its early years of operation, and vouchers were awarded by lottery, we were able to use the “gold standard” evaluation method of a randomized experiment to determine what impacts the OSP had on student outcomes. Our analysis revealed compelling evidence that the DC voucher program had a positive impact on high school graduation rates, suggestive evidence that the program increased reading achievement, and no evidence that it affected math achievement. We discuss the implications of these findings in light of recent policy developments including the reauthorization of the OSP and the enactment or expansion of more than a dozen school voucher or voucher-type programs throughout the U.S. in 2011 and 2012.
URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.21691/full

Substantive Focus:
Education Policy PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Analysis and Evaluation PRIMARY

Keywords

SCHOOL VOUCHERS SCHOOL CHOICE POLICY EXPERIMENTS