Medium-Term Impacts of High-Achieving Charter Schools

Public charter schools are exempt from certain education regulations and rules, but are held accountable by results-based standards that focus on student achievement. The use of charter schools as a way to improve public education for underserved students is widely disputed. High-performing charter schools have been shown to improve test scores of poor urban students, but it is unclear whether test score gains have an impact on longer term academic performance, risky behavior, or health outcomes.

J-PAL affiliate Roland Fryer (Harvard) and Will Dobbie (Princeton) conducted a randomized evaluation with Promise Academy, a charter school in New York City. Fryer and Dobbie used a combination of surveys and administrative data to compare the outcomes of students accepted to Promise Academy (through a lottery) to those of other students.

The study’s results show that the offer of a Promise Academy education did result in positive longer-term effects, but that impact varied significantly across outcomes. While results were mixed across health and participation in risky behavior, the findings suggest that there is a causal relationship between improved test scores and some medium-term outcomes, and that high-achieving charter schools like Promise Academy can positively affect both:

“Youth randomly offered admission to the Promise Academy demonstrate large increases in academic achievement and are more likely to reach important benchmarks such as high school graduation or college enrollment, on time. Youth are statistically no more likely to increase their quantity of schooling, though many students are still in college and this conclusion may be altered with subsequent follow-ups.”

Read our full evaluation summary on the J-PAL North America website.

Study Cited: Fryer, Roland and Will Dobbie. 2014. “The Medium-Term Impacts of High-Achieving Charter Schools.” Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming.

Author: J-PAL North America

J-PAL North America seeks to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. We do this through research, outreach, and training. We collaborate with decision-makers to generate clear, scientific evidence on which approaches work and why. We catalyze and support randomized evaluations, communicate evidence to help translate research into action, and build policymakers’ capacity to create and use evidence.

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