Charter School Outcomes


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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Charter schools are designed to improve student and school outcomes through regulatory flexibility, improved student-school matching, and competition. Research findings on charter schools and their impact on student achievement are mixed, with few trends to bolster or disprove charter school advocates’ claims. Methodology issues cloud the charter school outcome picture as the most rigorous analyses require data that are hard to come by: longitudinal student level information, detailed school level descriptors, and a sample that is randomly assigned. A handful of random assignment studies have been done, with more underway, that produce some evidence that charter schools improve student achievement in the early grades. Other rigorous studies utilize student fixed effects models and find a range of effects, both positive and negative, of charter schools versus traditional public schools. Few studies actually drill down to analyze the intervention utilized by individual charter schools; thus, most produce results that ignore the heterogeneity within the charter school sector. Methodological improvements and the use of more extensive student level data are necessary for a better understanding of charter school impacts, particularly as this education sector matures and expands.

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