College & Workforce Readiness Report Roundup

Long-Run Gains Seen for Charter Grads

By Arianna Prothero — April 12, 2016 1 min read

Charter school graduates in Florida were more likely to stay in college and earn higher salaries than their district school peers.

That occurred even though attending charter schools did not have a significant impact on students’ test scores, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

The study is significant, argue its authors, because research on charter schools has been largely focused on short-term effects, such as test scores, versus long-term outcomes, such as getting college degrees and employment earnings.

Researchers from Georgia State University, Vanderbilt University, and Mathematica Policy Research found that charter school graduates were 12 percent more likely to persist through their second year in college, and, by the time they were in their mid-20s, earned 12 percent more than their district school counterparts. Even when controlling for college enrollment, charter graduates were 6 percent more likely to persist in college.

Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the study also confirms earlier findings from Mathematica that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. (The Joyce Foundation provides grant support for Education Week‘s coverage of policy efforts to improve the teaching profession.)

The study’s primary analysis compared Florida students who attended charter schools throughout high school with those who switched from a charter middle school to a district high school. Although the researchers ran several analyses to try to control for factors like selection bias, they admit that there are limitations to their methodology and that the findings can’t necessarily be applied to charter school students in other states.

“Nonetheless,” they write, “this early evidence of positive effects for these students on educational attainment and earnings in adulthood raises the question of whether charter schools’ full long-term impacts on their students have been underestimated by studies that examine only test scores.”

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A version of this article appeared in the April 13, 2016 edition of Education Week as Long-Run Gains Seen for Charter Grads

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