The Competitive Effects of Charter Schools on Traditional Public Schools

Authored by: JULIAN R. BETTS

Handbook of Research on School Choice

Print publication date:  April  2009
Online publication date:  May  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805862232
eBook ISBN: 9780203881781
Adobe ISBN:


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The chapter summarizes predictions from the economic theory of school choice. The theory suggests that more competition among schools leads to better outcomes among all schools. The chapter then reviews the empirical literature on the effect of charter schools on student achievement in nearby traditional public schools. To date, researchers have used three methods. The first tests whether achievement at traditional schools within a district depends on the geographic proximity of charter schools. The second compares districts with many charter schools to those with fewer. The third, and least commonly used method, tests for a relationship between the net student losses from a given traditional school to charter schools, and subsequent achievement gains at the traditional school. Numerous statistical challenges confront each of these approaches; the largest challenge is that charter schools do not locate themselves randomly. The empirical results are mixed, suggesting zero or positive effects of increased competition from charter schools. The chapter concludes with recommendations for future work.

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