Selected readings on US charter schools
Education reform critics will sometimes argue that high-performing charters are only improving student test scores by teaching to the test. There is no actual improvement in human capital, it is argued, rather an improvement in test taking ability. As I’ve written before, this is inconsistent with evidence showing that charter’s help boost non-test outcomes. Now there is more evidence for this in a new NBER paper from Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer. They look at the medium term effects of attending the Harlem Children’s Zone charter school on both testing and non-testing outcomes and find positive results:
We find that the Promise Academy increases a wide range of human capital measures. Six years after the admissions lottery, lottery winners outscore lottery losers by 0.283σ higher on the no-stakes Woodcock-Johnson math exam, and by 0.119σ on the Woodcock-Johnson reading exam. On New York City’s high school Regents exams, designed to measure mastery in core subjects, lottery winners pass approximately one additional exam, score 0.270σ higher on exams taken by the majority of the sample, and are more than twice as likely to take and pass more advanced exams such as chemistry and geometry. Lottery winners are also 14.1 percentage points more likely to enroll in college compared to lottery losers, and 21.3 percentage points more likely to enroll in a four-year college, a 102 percent increase from the control mean. Lottery winners are also 7.2 percentage points less likely to enroll in a two-year college, likely due to the fact that these youth enroll in a four-year college instead.
So this school isn’t just improving test scores, but also college attendance. In addition, the authors find positive impacts on teenage pregnancy and incarceration rates so this isn’t just the students becoming better at going to school, though that in itself would be an important improvement.
If these results were found for a particular high-performing pre-k program then the response by reform critics would be that we need to figure out how to increase access to high-performing programs like this, and not too minimize it by pointing to less impressive average program impacts and the difficulty of replicability. The difference is that universal pre-k would represent mostly new government spending and an opportunity for expanding the public sector workforce, while high-performing charters in the long-run are more likely to crowd out existing public sector workers and spending.
Source: Forbes – by Adam Ozimek