Cream Skimming and Pushout of Students Participating in a Statewide Private School Voucher Program

This descriptive study by Joseph Waddington, Ron Zimmer, and Mark Berends examines the claim that voucher-participating private schools engage in “cream skimming” to attract the highest-performing students. This is a common criticism of voucher programs, though the formal study of the extent to which the phenomenon takes place has been minimal. Using longitudinal data on Indiana students between the 2010-2011 and 2017-2018 school years, the authors find little evidence suggesting that higher-performing traditional public students are more likely to be drawn to voucher-participating schools. On the other hand, they do find that low-achieving voucher students are one to three percentage points more likely to be “pushed out” of voucher-participating private schools.

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