An Analysis of Voucher Advocacy: Taking a Closer Look at the Uses and Limitations of “Gold Standard” Research

Christopher Lubienski, T. Jameson Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Voucher proponents have increasingly pursued empirical evidence on the effectiveness of vouchers as a form of education improvement, in addition to advocating for vouchers on moral or ethical grounds. Voucher proponents contend that randomized assignment studies of students in voucher programs have consistently confirmed the effectiveness of vouchers. We examine such advocacy claims about these “gold standard” studies from a leading voucher proponent, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, to consider how such advocacy is presented. Although voucher advocates indicate that the research is conclusive, consistent, and thus generalizable, and essentially beyond reproach, closer examination of the studies put forth by advocates suggests little consensus or consistency across the reported findings. When there are positive effects, they do not translate across different contexts, populations, programs, grade levels, or subjects. Moreover, we highlight some limitations of these studies, which the advocates do not acknowledge, and show that, because findings on vouchers are less compelling or promising than proponents claim, the misrepresentation of empirical findings by advocates appears to be a key element of their advocacy agenda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-472
Number of pages18
JournalPeabody Journal of Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 7 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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