New Study Shows: School Vouchers Help Black Students Close Growing Racial “Grade Gap”

At a time of growing disparity between the test scores of black and white elementary school students, a new report reveals dramatically improved test scores by black students who used vouchers to switch from public to private schools.

Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are hailing this study as more evidence to support what many blacks have long believed: giving lower-income families a voucher they can use to have their children attend the school of their choice enhances educational opportunity, and with it, educational achievement.

"When given the right tools, the results of this study show that black students can do just as well their white counterparts," said Project 21 member Kevin Martin, the son of a public school teacher. "School vouchers also create a competitive environment that holds public schools accountable for the student they turn out. It is time for black leaders to stop giving in to the teacher unions’ charge that vouchers take funds away from public schools. They improve them by making them competitive."

In study results announced at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in early September, public school students in Washington, DC, Dayton, Ohio and New York City, New York who received privately-funded vouchers through a lottery scored an average of six percentile points higher than students who did not receive a voucher. In Washington, where 94% of the students tested were African-American, those using vouchers to attend private schools scored nine percentile points higher than their public school counterparts. Progress was measured with the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

This positive finding comes at the same time the U.S. Department of Education announced growing gaps in the test scores of black and white students. The 1999 National Assessment of Education found that the disparity among test scores of black and white elementary school students widened in the areas of reading, math and science. In addition, 17-year-old African-Americans – at an age when many finish their education and permanently join the workforce – were found to be four years behind their white counterparts.

"I feel it my duty to provide a tax base for public education, but I also feel it is a responsibility of my government to provide me some incentive if I decide my child needs more," said Project 21 member E. LeMay Lathan, the author of the book The Black Man’s Guide to Working in the White Man’s World. "It is my decision to send my child to a private school, but all of society benefits from a better educated child in the future. That thought alone makes vouchers a viable discussion."

Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.