Study: Florida's Charter School Grads Earn More

Re-posting a story from U.S. News & World Report -- Students who attend Florida's charter high schools are more likely to graduate, go to college, stay in college and earn more than students who attend traditional public high schools.

That's the major finding from the first large-scale study of the effects of charter schools on earnings in adulthood, published Monday in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Link to study:

Charter schools represent the biggest and most popular school choice option. Since their inception in 1992, the number of charter schools has grown to more than 6,800 nationally, serving nearly three million students, according to a new report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Link to report:

Various studies have examined charter schools' impacts on test scores, but few have examined longer-term outcomes, like graduation and college attendance. And until now, no study has estimated charter schools' effects on college persistence and earnings in adulthood. Singer Sean Combs arrives for the screening of Lawless at the 65th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, on Saturday, May 19, 2012.

Using data from Florida's charter schools, the researchers found that maximum annual earnings were approximately $2,300 higher for 23- to 25-year-olds who attended charter high schools versus conventional public schools. They also found that students who attended charter high schools were more likely to attend a two- or four-year college by an estimated nine percentage points.

"Most of the research in this area has focused on the short-term effects on student test scores, which may not capture the full impact of charter schools on students," said Tim Sass, professor at Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, one to the four authors of the report.

Indeed, as the researchers note, most studies of charter schools have found little to suggest that charter schools promote positive test scores, on average, across an entire state, even though some charter schools produce substantial test-score gains.

"We decided to examine longer-term outcomes like high school graduation, college enrollment and completion, and earnings, because these may have a greater lifetime consequence than test scores," Sass said.

The new study suggests the possibility, the authors said, that charter high schools are endowing their students with skills that test scores do not capture, like those that promote success in college and career.

"Perhaps charter schools are trying to focus on promoting life skills like grit, persistence, self-control and conscientiousness," said Ron Zimmer, associate professor at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development and one of the authors. University students taking exam at classroom

While there is anecdotal evidence that charter schools are trying to focus on these life skills, especially at some of the more successful charter groups, like KIPP, little evidence yet exists to confirm this or to link these efforts to improved long-term outcomes, Zimmer said.

Further research is also needed, the authors noted, to test whether their findings for charter high schools in Florida also hold up in other states.

Either way, the researchers said the evidence of positive effects of high school charter schools on educational attainment and earnings in adulthood suggests that perhaps the long-term impact of charter schools has been underestimated by studies that examine only test scores.

"More broadly, the findings suggest that research examining the efficacy of educational programs should examine a broader array of outcomes than just student achievement," the authors conclude.