Meta-Analysis Finds Positive Impact of School Choice Programs Worldwide

A group of University of Arkansas researchers reviewed 19 research studies about 11 school choice programs around the world and found overall positive and statistically significant achievement effects of using school vouchers.

The review by M. Danish Shakeel and Kaitlin Anderson, both doctoral students in the education policy program, and Patrick Wolf, holder of the Twenty-First Century Chair in School Choice, is posted on the Social Science Research Network website.

It is also available on the School Choice Demonstration Project website. Wolf directs the project, which is part of the Department of Education Reform in the College of Education and Health Professions.

This is the first time a meta-analysis of international randomized controlled trials evaluating the achievement effects of vouchers has been conducted, according to the authors. Generally, the effects were larger for reading than for math, for programs outside the United States relative to those within the United States and for publicly funded programs relative to privately funded programs.

School voucher programs are scholarship programs, frequently government funded, that pay for students to attend private schools of their choice. Many private school voucher 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 such as Chile and India have developed extensive school voucher programs.

The results of the meta-analysis indicate that voucher programs appear to work well globally, perhaps particularly in countries with more of a private-public gap in school quality, but more randomized controlled trials are needed to address the education gap for access to K-12 education, especially in the third-world countries.


Heidi Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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