The Participant Effects of Private School Vouchers Across the Globe: A Meta-Analytic and Systematic Review
83 Pages Posted: 9 May 2016 Last revised: 11 May 2016
Date Written: May 10, 2016
School voucher programs (a.k.a. opportunity scholarships) are scholarship programs - frequently government funded - that pay for students to attend private schools of their choice. Many private school vouchers programs have been initiated around the world with the goal of increasing the academic performance of students. Voucher programs are often viewed as a way to increase achievement and satisfaction for individual students and families, while at the same time creating competitive pressures that encourage other schools in the area to improve. Countries like Chile and India have developed extensive school voucher programs. While many studies have been conducted on school vouchers, a meta-analysis of the international randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the achievement effects of vouchers has never been conducted. This study is a meta-analytic consolidation of the evidence from all RCTs evaluating the participant test score effects of school vouchers internationally. Our search process turned up 9,443 potential studies, 19 of which ultimately were included. These 19 studies represent 11 different voucher programs. A total of 262 effect sizes are included, with a two-stage consolidation of those estimates yielding a total of 44 drawn from the last year of the studies. We have included only math and reading outcomes as other subjects are rarely reported and are difficult to compare across countries. We also differentiate between English and reading outcomes and present English results as a subcomponent of the reading effects to account for the effect of local language in the international context. Our meta-analysis indicates overall positive and statistically significant achievement effects of school vouchers that vary by subject (math or reading), location (US v. non-US), and funding type (public or private). Generally, the impacts are larger (1) for reading than for math, (2) for programs outside the US relative to those within the US, and (3) for publicly-funded programs relative to privately-funded programs.
Keywords: private school voucher, systematic review, meta-analysis, opportunity scholarship, international randomized controlled trials, RCT, participant effects
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