Educational group calls Invest in Kids test scores report deeply flawed

(The Center Square) – An educational nonprofit is highly critical of a report on Illinois tax credit scholarship recipients’ test scores. 

In the report conducted for the Illinois State Board of Education by WestEd, Empower Illinois said researchers compared low-income Invest in Kids scholarship recipients to all Illinois public school students, rendering the results meaningless because they lack proper context.

“Our issue with that is in the Invest in Kids Act, in the literal law, it says that they are supposed to compare our low-income scholarship students to public school students of a similar socioeconomic background and they did not do that,” Empower Illinois Executive Director Bobby Sylvester said. 

Sylvester said according to Illinois State Board of Education data, Invest in Kids recipients outperformed their low-income counterparts in nearly every category. 

An ISBE spokesperson said the independent research organization that conducted the report was unable to collect demographic data on scholarship recipients, so it could only compare averages of all scholarship recipients to averages of all public school students.

“ISBE has not conducted any validation of the results, so we cannot comment on the study except to echo WestEd in urging caution in interpreting the results, since the data limitations prevented any apples-to-apples comparisons,” said Jackie Matthews, executive director of Communications with ISBE. 

The Invest in Kids program was allowed to expire in December, but Sylvester is confident that Illinois lawmakers will address the program this spring. 

“We know that legislators have been hearing from many of the scholarship parents who are facing some really difficult choices now that the rug has been pulled out from underneath them,” said Sylvester.

Since the program’s inception, nearly 41,000 scholarships have been awarded statewide.

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