Long-awaited debate on school vouchers


American Behavioral Scientist, Jan 2004

Thousand Oaks, CA--January 15, 2004--The controversial issue of school vouchers heats up again as Alan B. Krueger and Pei Zhu, both of Princeton University, challenge the conclusions that William G. Howell and Paul E. Peterson, both of Harvard University, draw from their study of school vouchers. Howell and Peterson argue that vouchers significantly improved test scores for minority children. Proponents of school vouchers, such as President George W. Bush, used Howell and Peterson's research as the basis for their claims that vouchers benefit minority students.

The long-awaited, thought-provoking debate between Howell/Peterson and Krueger/Zhu on the proper analysis and interpretation of the experimental results is presented in the January 2004 issue of American Behavioral Scientist--Field Experimentation in the Social Sciences. Both sides offer important insights regarding specific questions of estimation and conceptualization in the assessment of vouchers' effects and the more general issue of how researchers should adjudicate disputes of this kind.

Related articles discuss what randomized experiments in real world settings have contributed to the social sciences, how to assess the reliability of data, and how to draw inferences from those data. Written by some of the most prominent scholars in the social sciences [such as Peter Salovey/Pamela Williams-Piehota (Yale University), Robert A. Moffitt (Johns Hopkins University), Lawrence Sherman (University of Pennsylvania)/Heather Strang (Australian National University), Robert F. Boruch(University of Pennsylvania), and Alan S. Gerber (Yale University)], the articles also address the role of theory in experimental research, the extent to which field experiments can inform the development of theory, the theoretical limitations of field experimentation, the most efficient way to extract knowledge from experimental data, and the proper way to detect and address deviations from pure experimental protocols. The school vouchers debates are a practical and substantive reminder of the policy significance of experimental research.

Published monthly by SAGE Publications, this January issue of American Behavioral Scientist is edited by Donald Green, Director of the Institution of Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, and Alan S. Gerber, Professor of Political Science at Yale University.

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