by Andrea Rogers
A new study by Harvard researchers suggests that the impact of a high-quality charter school may go well beyond the short-term benefits highlighted by simple test score analysis. In the report, titled “The Medium-Term Impacts of High-Achieving Charter Schools on Non-Test Score Outcomes,” Will Dobbie and Roland G. Fryer Jr. analyzed data from the Promise Academy, a charter school in the famous Harlem Children’s Zone. Researchers found that students from the charter were more likely to enroll in college than their peers, female students are less likely to become pregnant, and males are less likely to be incarcerated.
This study is meaningful because it goes beyond simple analyses of New York State exam results, which have dominated media stories the past week. The authors measured impacts that are much harder for the charter sector to self-report and for the authorizers to analyze. Test score analysis showed gains in math, and the authors also found that Promise Academy students were much more likely to enroll in a four-year college program. However, this report took its analysis a step farther into other aspects of students’ lives.
The key findings in some risk behaviors/health outcomes are significant, while no impacts were found in other areas. Female students were less likely to be pregnant in their teen years, and males were less likely to be incarcerated (at rates of 71 percent and 100 percent lower than the control, respectively) – benefits worthy of emphasis. In other areas, such as drug and alcohol usage, the rates were similar.
These findings can help advance thoughtful policy discussions on the future of the charter movement. In a more human way, the results remind us again that high-quality schools literally can change lives. If you like data and research, this one is worth a read.