Transmittal Letter to Congress for the Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program - Second Year Report on Participation

May 4, 2006

Dear Member of Congress:

I am pleased to present to you the Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Second Year Report on Participation. This is the second in a series of annual reports mandated by the DC School Choice Incentive Act of 2003.

The report, prepared by the Department’s Institute of Education Sciences, updates the data in the earlier report by adding information describing the students and schools that applied to and became participants in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program for the 2005-2006 school year. Ultimately, the most important questions for the evaluation are about the program’s effectiveness in improving student outcomes. Data are still being collected for that analysis, including the administration by the evaluation team of the same academic achievement assessment previously used by the District of Columbia Public Schools, as required by the statute. These data and analyses will be presented in the 2007 report.

In the current report, the most significant data presented include:

  • By fall 2005, a total of 5,818 students had applied to the program, 4,047 were deemed eligible, and 2,454 had been awarded scholarships. These students came in two waves or “cohorts”: applicants in spring 2004 and those in spring 2005. Between students from the first cohort who continued to use their scholarships and those awarded scholarships in the second cohort, the program was operating at full capacity in fall 2005.
  • A large enough subset of public school applicants was awarded scholarships through lotteries such that a robust analysis of program impacts can be conducted. More than 2,300 public school students applied to be in grades for which there were more applicants than there were slots in participating private schools – a necessary condition for inclusion in the impact sample. Of these, 1,387 were randomly assigned to receive scholarships (treatment group), and 921 did not receive scholarships (control group).
  • Forty-four percent of all public school applicants across the two cohorts came from a public school designated as a “school in need of improvement” under the No Child Left Behind Act between 2003 and 2005. These applicants include preschoolers enrolling for the first time in the District of Columbia Public Schools. Applicants from schools in need of improvement were given highest priority in the lotteries, and more than 500 received scholarships.
  • A total of 68 of the 104 DC private schools agreed to participate in fall 2005, 10 more than had participated the prior year. Of these, 60 were serving scholarship students in the second year of the program.

If you or your staff would like a briefing on this report, or if you have any further questions, please have your staff contact Sandra Cook in the Department’s Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at 202-401-0137 or


Margaret Spellings

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Last Modified: 05/04/2006