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The School Choice Journey: School Vouchers and the Empowerment of Urban Families, Patrick J. Wolf and Thomas Stewart

Reviewed by Sean P. Corcoran

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Thomas Stewart and Patrick J. Wolf’s new book provides an in-depth look at the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), a federally funded voucher that provides low-income students in Washington, DC, the opportunity to attend private school. In focusing on the qualitative experiences of parents, schools, and administrators, The School Choice Journey differentiates itself from other work on school choice, which is often more concerned with its politics or impact on student achievement. Other studies by Wolf (who is lead evaluator of the OSP) and his colleagues have found that the voucher had no effect on test scores but a large positive effect on high school graduation and parent satisfaction.

The School Choice Journey uses five years of interviews, surveys, and focus groups to examine how parents and other stakeholders engaged with the OSP over time and to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Stewart and Wolf are particularly interested in the question of whether the “school choice journey” can transform parents “from passive clients of government services to informed consumers of educational options and ...empowered citizens willing and able to shape public policy” (p. 6). They hypothesize that by engaging families traditionally left behind, school choice can have antipoverty effects beyond its impact on sch

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