Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy (PhD)

Degree Level



Education Reform


Robert Maranto

Committee Member

Patrick Wolf

Second Committee Member

Jonathan Mills


Educational Leadership, Globe, Policy, Private, Public, School Voucher


School choice is becoming increasingly popular around the globe. Broadly the term ‘school choice’ is used to describe the options available for families to send children to school(s) other than the one they are residentially assigned to. Private school choice interventions known as ‘school vouchers,’ offer public or private funding to enable families to send their children to private school.

Research in 1970s and 80s by James Coleman and his colleagues showed a private school advantage in student achievement and graduation rates, in comparison to traditional public schools. Competing evidence was presented by Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Lubienski in 2013, claiming a public school advantage in student achievement. The debates surrounding a particular school sector advantage can be better addressed using causal evidence and using large datasets to understand possible mechanisms that differentiate the school sectors.

This dissertation reports on four analyses of the possibility of a private school advantage, using a variety of data. The first study looks at overall evidence on student achievement in math and reading scores from causal studies on private school vouchers around the globe. The second study offers a supplemental cost-effectiveness evaluation of the same set of voucher programs.

In the third study, nationally representative data on public and private school principals is analyzed to study principal autonomy over seven school-level activities across school sectors.

Using the same dataset, the fourth study examines the determinants of principal attrition across school sectors. Principals’ stated responses to stay in the profession in the baseline year are compared to their revealed status a year later.

Some contributions of this dissertation are evidence of vouchers increasing reading test scores more in comparison to math test scores and a larger test score impact in developing countries than in the U.S. The dissertation finds more autonomy over school-level activities and more likelihood to remain in the profession for the private school principal in comparison to the traditional public school principal. Hence, future studies may test the role of principal autonomy and principals’ remaining in the profession as a mediator of school choice outcomes.