Charter grads go farther, earn more

Charter high school students go farther in school and earn more as adults, concludes a Mathematica study. Researchers followed Florida and Chicago charter eighth graders for 11 years, comparing those who attended a charter high school and classmates who went to a traditional high school.

Charter students don’t earn higher test scores, on average, unless they attend “no excuses” charters, previous research has found. However, they’re significantly more likely than similar students to complete high school and enroll in college. 

. . . students attending Chicago and Florida charter high schools were 7 to 15 percentage points more likely to graduate and 8 to 10 percentage points more likely to enroll in college than comparison groups of students who attended charter middle schools but matriculated to traditional public high schools.

The former charter high students earned more at age 25 than the control group, Mathematica found. That suggests charter high schools “are endowing students with skills, knowledge, work habits, motivation, and values that are important for long-term success but are not fully captured by test scores.”

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Comments

  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    It doesn’t suggest that to me. If charter schools were indeed “endowing students with skills [and] knowledge … that are important for long-term success,” I would expect something, even a very little something, to show up in better test scores. The fact that nothing shows up suggests there is nothing to show.

    Maybe (to take the second part of that sentence) charters are “endowing students with … work habits, motivation, and values that are important for long-term success” and which do not show up at all in test scores. I suspect there is some truth here.

    However, I also suspect that a substantial part of the different outcome is because of a different input. Students who go to and stay at charters are probably different from students who don’t.

    • Even if both of your last points are true, and I think it’s likely, there’s nothing to prevent traditional public schools from offering similar opportunities to these same students. It is precisely their refusal to do so that creates the market for charters. Even if charters do nothing but kick out the disruptors, they’re a step ahead of the neighborhood schools. It says something interesting about the American public that anything public schools provide to able, well-prepared and motivated kids is usually denounced (elitist, lacking in “diversity”, “those kids will do fine, anyway”) white the uncounted rivers of money poured towards the least able, prepared and motivated kids is usually applauded (and accompanied by demands for more resources). The fact that the most expensive kids to “educate” are neither educable nor trainable and will always be dependent on taxpayer support is ignored.

      • SC Math Teacher says:

        When I taught in NYC, I saw my school eliminate the ISS room. I was told that it was up to me to control the chronically disruptive students – the uncontrollable and ineducable. The implication, of course, was that if I couldn’t then I was a bad teacher. Basically, I had to take it, irrespective of the effect on the other students. If parents would confront principals en masse, then maybe change would occur. Absent that, I don’t blame parents for seeking out alternatives in NYC.

  2. Florida resident says:

    ” “charter high schools “are endowing students with…” ” ”
    __PARENTS__, who took some efforts to move their children from the place, which seemed to them to be bad (particular public school.) Statistically those parents had higher IQ, with all consequences for their kids.
    Full disclosure: two my kids graduated from _public_ high school here in Florida.
    With invariable gratitude to Ms. Jacobs for her work,
    F.r.

    • All the students in the study were the children of parents who’d chosen charter schools. After 8th grade, some went to charter high schools and others to district schools. Mathematica is well aware of the selection effect and tried to correct for it.

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        I am glad to learn that “[a]ll the students in the study were the children of parents who’d chosen charter schools.” That helps to control for the selection effect.

        However, that control has limited effectiveness unless all the students who won the lottery for the charter school stay in the charter school. If the ones who leave the charter are the ones who have the worse work habits, motivation, and values, the charter will come out looking like it has more effect on young people than it actually does.

        This is a problem that researchers have recently become aware of in drug studies. Subjects who actually stay in the study and take all the experimental medication also have better underlying health and are more likely to get better than the subjects who drop out.

  3. Most charters are homogeneous. The same kid at a heterogeneous school vs an all-black KIPP school will probably get better grades at KIPP, but the same test scores.

    So KIPP is able to dole out higher grades and kick out the kids that don’t perform (often by making them repeat a grade). And that’s on top of the creaming they do already.

    What troubles me is that kids can go to different schools, achieve at the same level, and get wildly different grades.

    • I agree with you that grades have pretty much parted company with reality, in many (if not most) schools. The terms dishonesty, fraud and academic malpractice come to mind. What would you recommend to rectify the situation?

  4. No, Joanne. I doesn’t.

    1) It might have the causality backwards. That is, those who already have these traits might be the ones who stay continue on to a (non-public) charter school.

    2) It might miss an independent issue that causes both the future success and decision to continue on to a (non-public) charter school. For example, it could be parents who are more concerned about education or are more likely to want to be directly involved in their kids’ school. (That’s a hypothesis, not a conlusion.)

    3) More generally, there might be some other unobserved unaccounted for trait that is not captured in the variables used in this analaysis that leads to the greater attaninment and earnings in the future that is for some other reasons not evenly distributed between these two groups.

  5. David Cohen says:

    Students In charter schools do have an advantage in receiving special education programs that they wouldn’t have else ware, which can lead to them receiving higher scores on standardized test. Charter schools usually get extra funding and are free to choose programs that can benefit student growth. A friend of mine said the school he went to had a math Intervention program called Camelot Learning that really helped him increase his standardized test scores. This program can increase a students test score by 30% on standardized tests- he wouldn’t of been able to get this program in a public school because they wouldn’t of had have extra funding.