RNS Press Release Service

First Meta-Analysis Comparing Public Charter, Religious Private, and Public Schools Gives Major Edge to Religious Schools

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA- In a speech for Notre Dame University faculty William Jeynes, Senior Fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton New Jersey and a Professor at California State University, Long Beach, shared long awaited results of his research comparing the educational outcomes of students from public-charter, religious private (mostly Christian), and public schools.

Jeynes, a graduate of Harvard University, presented the results of the first meta-analysis that has ever been undertaken, comparing these three types of schools. The meta-analysis, which involves statistically synthesizing all the research that has been done on a given topic, indicated that students attending faith-based schools had an academic advantage of approximately one year over their counterparts in both public-charter schools and traditional public schools, even when controlling for socioeconomic status, race, and gender.

Dr. Jeynes admits, “I was quite surprised that students from charter schools did no better than their counterparts in traditional public schools. When undertaking a meta-analysis, you really have to address the study with a major degree of humility. I really expected public-charter school students to outperform pupils in traditional public schools. However, in any meta-analysis when the numbers come out a certain way you have to reach a decision. Either you change or the numbers change and since the numbers won’t change, you need to humble yourself enough to go with the facts rather than your preconceived notions.”

Jeynes continues by sharing how he has changed his views and the ramifications of the study’s results. “I was more favorably inclined to support the continued explosive growth of charter schools before I conducted this study. It appears that if this nation is to support the notion of a greater breadth of school choice, then religious schools should be included. Although I’m sure there are productive charter schools, on the whole it appears that they are not getting the job done. And to the extent that neither traditional public schools nor charter schools are succeeding on a broad scale, it appears that the best hope for American education is religious private schools. Not only are they considerable more economically efficient, but their students obtain better results. These results suggest that our nation needs to rethink its strategy of espousing charter schools and overlooking the benefits of faith-based education.”