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I wanted to examine, the efficacy of some alternative types of schools. Normally, when I look at education interventions, I tend to focus on the efficacy of specific pedagogical methods. However, for this article, I thought it might be interesting to look at the issue from the perspective of a parent and attempt to answer the question, should you send your child to a private school, charter school, religious school, or a public school. Upfront, I must admit I do have a bias against private schools and charter schools, as I believe they drain funding and resources away from the public education system and ultimately average day parents. That being said, I think it is always important to examine educational issues from an objective perspective. To that end, I have analyzed several meta-analyses on the topic, in the hopes of determining whether or not there is any statistical evidence that private schools, charter schools, or religious schools deliver a superior education. 

A 2018 meta-analysis titled “A Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement” by, Bett’s et al, looked at the effect size of students switching from public schooling to Charter schools. Overall their study showed that charter schools had a small but statistically insignificant effect size. Overall they demonstrated that charter schools had an effect size of .012 for reading and .023 for math. However, their study showed that charter schools had a small but negative effect size on math scores for all ethnicity of students, except black students. Black students had a positive effect size for math scores of .0006, which is not statistically significant. Charter schools also had negative effect size scores on reading for all ethnicities of students, except for black and Hispanic students. For black students, there was an effect size of .024, which is not statistically significant and for Hispanic students, there was an effect size of .019, which again is not statistically significant. 

That being said, the overall effect size for Charter schools is small but not statistically significant and the total of their positive effect comes from heavily racialized minorities. This might suggest that the reason, charter schools outperform regular schools by a slight degree, has more to do with minority students doing better, in less segregated/better-funded schools, and not because there are any inherent benefits to charter schools. This hypothesis can be further collaborated by the fact that the same meta-analysis showed that the effect size for students from “urbanized schools” was higher than from “non-urbanized schools”. Indeed the effect size for students from “urbanized schools” was .019 for reading and .064 for reading. Again, none of these effect sizes are statistically significant. 

A meta-analysis by Shakeel, et al, written in 2016 looked at the effect size of sending regular students to private schools for free. Their study showed that on average sending a student to a private school for free had a positive effect size for that student’s education of .17. This is a small, but ever so slightly statistically significant effect size. Comparatively, according to John Hattie’s 2018 meta-analysis sending your child to a religious school, has a positive effect size of .24. This is statistically significant, but very small effect size.

To put this all in context, according to John Hattie’s meta-analysis, teaching your child how to play chess has an effect size of .34, meaning that teaching your child how to play chess has a higher effect size than sending your child to private school. Alternatively, if you do not know how to play chess, you could teach your child about philosophy, which according to Hattie, has an effect size of .43. 

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Ultimately, this is not to suggest that teaching your child how to play chess is an amazing educational intervention. Teaching children how to play chess has a small, but statistically significant effect size; however, it is by no means a “high yield” educational strategy. Rather I am comparing the effect size of chess to alternative schooling, to demonstrate, just how weak the evidence is for alternative schooling. Personally, I think this evidence, is so weak, that I do not think sending your child to an alternative school, is worth the cost, unless you are absolutely confident in the specific institution you are sending your child to, or the financial cost of the decision, is of absolutely no consequence to you. 

Written by Nathaniel Hansford

Last edited: 3/12/2021


Shakeel, M. Danish and Anderson, Kaitlin and Wolf, Patrick, The Participant Effects of Private School Vouchers Across the Globe: A Meta-Analytic and Systematic Review (May 10, 2016). EDRE Working Paper No. 2016-07, Available at SSRN: or

J, Hattie. (2018).  Hattie Ranking: 252 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement. Visible Learning. Retrieved from <>. 

Betts, et al. (2018). A Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Charter Schools on Student

Achievement. Department of Economics, University of California, San Diego, and

National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from <>. 

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