Students who attend charter high schools are more likely to graduate, go to college, and stay in college than students who attend traditional public high schools.
The findings, published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, come from the first large-scale study of the effects of charter schools on earnings in adulthood.
“Perhaps charter schools are trying to focus on promoting life skills like grit, persistence, self-control, and conscientiousness.”
“Maximum annual earnings were approximately $2,300 higher for 23- to 25-year-olds who attended charter high schools versus conventional public schools across the state of Florida,” says Ron Zimmer, associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University.
“We also found that students who attended charter high schools were more likely to attend a two- or four-year college by an estimated nine percentage points.”
Previous research on charter schools has focused primarily on the short-term effects of student test scores—which may not capture the full impact of charter schools on students, says Tim Sass, professor at Florida State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.
“We decided to examine longer-term outcomes like high school graduation, college enrollment and completion, and earnings, because these may have a greater lifetime consequence than test scores.”
The researchers say the positive relationships between charter high school attendance and long-term outcomes are striking. Most studies in the field have found little to suggest that charter schools promote positive test scores, on average, across an entire state, even though some charter schools produce substantial test-score gains.
The new findings suggest the possibility that charter high schools are endowing their students with skills that test scores don’t capture, like those that promote success in college and career.
“Perhaps charter schools are trying to focus on promoting life skills like grit, persistence, self-control, and conscientiousness. But more research would be needed to test this hypothesis,” Zimmer says.
Early evidence of the positive effects high school charter school students receive in educational attainment and earnings in adulthood raises the question whether the full, long-term impact of these schools have been underestimated by studies that examine only test scores.
“Our findings suggest that research conducted to examine the efficacy of education programs should examine a broader array of outcomes than just test scores,” the authors write.
Researchers at Mathematica Policy Research are coauthors of the study that was funded by the Joyce Foundation.
Source: Vanderbilt University
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