Explaining Charter School Effectiveness

58 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2012 Last revised: 2 Jun 2012

See all articles by Joshua D. Angrist

Joshua D. Angrist

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Parag A. Pathak

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Christopher Walters

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 12, 2012

Abstract

Estimates using admissions lotteries suggest that urban charter schools boost student achievement, while charter schools in other settings do not. Using the largest available sample of lotteried applicants to charter schools, we explore student-level and school-level explanations for this difference in Massachusetts. In an econometric framework that isolates sources of charter effect heterogeneity, we show that urban charter schools boost achievement well beyond that of urban public school students, while non-urban charters reduce achievement from a higher baseline. Student demographics explain some of these gains since urban charters are most effective for non-whites and low-baseline achievers. At the same time, non-urban charter schools are uniformly ineffective. Our estimates also reveal important school-level heterogeneity within the urban charter sample. A non-lottery analysis suggests that urban charters with binding, well-documented admissions lotteries generate larger score gains than under-subscribed urban charter schools with poor lottery records. Finally, we link charter impacts to school characteristics such as peer composition, length of school day, and school philosophy. The relative effectiveness of urban lottery-sample charters is accounted for by those schools’ embraces of the No Excuses approach to urban education.

Keywords: human capital, charter schools, achievement

JEL Classification: I21, I24, I28, J45

Suggested Citation

Angrist, Joshua and Pathak, Parag A. and Walters, Christopher, Explaining Charter School Effectiveness (April 12, 2012). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 12-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2045678 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2045678

Joshua Angrist (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Parag A. Pathak

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Christopher Walters

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

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