A Meta-Analysis on the Effects and Contributions of Public, Public Charter, and Religious Schools on Student Outcomes

Author(s): William H. Jeynes

Source: Jeynes, William H. 2012. “A Meta-Analysis on the Effects and Contributions of Public, Public Charter, and Religious Schools on Student Outcomes.” Peabody Journal of Education (2012) 87(3): 305-335.

Link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0161956X.2012.679535

When examining studies on school sector and student achievement, how do students in religious schools perform when compared to students in public and charter schools? A recent meta-analysis by William Jeynes looks at over 90 studies to provide a big picture answer to this question.

About the Study
A meta-analysis statistically summarizes multiple studies on a topic to determine an aggregated result, providing a broad sense of research findings on a topic. Jeynes’ meta-analysis included over 90 quantitative studies examining the relationship between school type and student achievement. Of interest were differences between traditional public schools, religious schools and public charter schools. Three research questions guided the investigation: effect sizes of schools types; if effect sizes differ when sophisticated versus less sophisticated controls are used; and if there is an association between school practices and student achievement.

When all studies were included in the analysis, Jeynes found that students in religious schools show greater effects in both academic and behavioral outcomes than students in traditional public schools. When only the studies using sophisticated controls (e.g., socioeconomic status, student selectivity) were considered, the effect size for academic achievement decreased somewhat, but remained statistically significant. For behavioral outcomes, the effect remained nearly the same and statistically significant. Charter schools, however, show very similar outcomes to traditional public schools. Differences between the two were not statistically significant and close to zero, both when considering the entirety of studies and when considering only the subset using sophisticated controls. On the question of association between school practices and student achievement, four practices were considered: taking harder courses, high expectations of teachers, a reduction in the achievement gap for minority students, and classroom flexibility (i.e., choices in course electives and engagement in class discussions). The effect sizes favored students in religious schools in all but classroom flexibility in which public schools students showed an advantage.   

Much attention was paid to the selection of studies and the varying sophistication of methods and controls used in the studies to provide a summary of trends in the research. It is important to note that while religious sector schools overall show a positive effect on student achievement, there is great diversity among these schools. Further distinctions between types of religious schools in the research would provide additional information between school practices and outcomes. The meta-analysis provides a valuable big picture view of the positive effects of religious sector schools but does not assist us in determining mechanisms specific to the religious sector or reasons behind the differences.

Keywords: academic practices, behavior, meta-analysis

Sector: Catholic,  Charter,  Evangelical Protestant,  Jewish,  Muslim,  Other Protestant,  Public

Outcomes: Academic,  Civil and Political

Date Posted: 2014-01-08