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How Do Charter Schools Affect Students in the Long-Term?

Charter schools have been a hot topic, both at the federal and state level. Our very own Dr. Zimmer, who is a leading educational policy expert with over 150 media mentions in the past year, examines the impact of Florida charter high schools on future success in a recent publication in the Journal of Policy Analysis & Management. Dr. Zimmer and his co-authors found that "students attending charter high schools are more likely to persist in college, and that in their mid-20s they experience higher earnings."

In their analysis, the researchers compared two groups of students-- those that entered a charter high school after completing 8th grade at a charter middle school, and those that went to a conventional high school after completing 8th grade at a charter middle school. Through statistical analysis, they found that those attending the charter high school were 8.8% more likely to attend a two- or four-year postsecondary institution than their peers. They also, on average, made around $2,300 more than their peers overall and around $3,000 more if they attended college within six years of high school graduation. 

Why is this the case? And, can we generalize the results to other school systems and states? Like other schools, charter school programs all differ. The authors have a couple of ideas about why the students they studied were more successful-- perhaps they received better life skill coaching, for example. Much more research is needed to understand the mechanisms.