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Updated Study Finds Higher Graduation Rates For Milwaukee Choice Students
May 2008


CONTACT: John Robert Warren, Ph.D.
Associate Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
Department of Sociology ~ University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) graduate at a higher rate than students in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), according to an analysis of five years of data by a national expert.

In “Graduation Rates for Choice and Public School Students in Milwaukee: 2003-2007,” John Robert Warren, Ph.D., compares graduation data for students in the MPCP and the MPS. Dr.Warren concludes that “students in the MPCP are more likely to graduate from high school than MPS students.”

According to Warren, had MPS graduation rates equaled those of MPCP students, there would have been almost 20% more public high school graduates between 2003 and 2007. Over the five years studied, that would have meant nearly 3,000 additional MPS graduates.

The report comes on the heels of a directive from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings requiring states to use a standard method for measuring graduation rates by 2012-13.

Spellings’ directive responds in part to scholarship by Warren and others that show that official graduation rates typically overstate actual results.

The MPCP is the nation’s oldest and largest program to provide public support for parents to enroll their children in private schools. Through the program, 18,550 students this year attend one of 122 private schools in the City of Milwaukee.

Dr. Warren’s analysis reports the following comparative graduation rates:

Milwaukee Public Schools students – Milwaukee School choice program students

2003: 49% – 62%
2004: 64% – 61%
2005: 52% – 61%
2006: 55% – 64%
2007: 58% – 85%

About the Author and Report

John Robert Warren is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Dr. Warren received his doctorate in 1998 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Warren’s scholarship reflects extensive examination of issues associated with the accurate measurement of high school graduation rates. In “State-Level High School Completion Rates: Concepts, Measures, and Trends,” he validated a rigorous new method for calculating
graduation rates (see Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 13, No. 51, December 23, 2005 —

Dr. Warren participates with scholars at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), an extensive long-term research project involving graduates of Wisconsin high schools in 1957 (see

Dr. Warren also is an expert on the consequences of state high school exit examinations for a variety of student outcomes.

“Graduation Rates for Choice and Public School Students in Milwaukee” was supported by a grant from School Choice Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization that seeks to ensure an honest debate about school choice by providing accurate information on the impact of school choice on families, communities, and schools.