The Medium-Term Impacts of High-Achieving Charter Schools on Non-Test Score Outcomes

Harvard EdLabs researchers Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer have plunged more deeply into the Harlem Children Zone’s Promise Academy, emerging with positive outcomes from this high-performing charter middle school in New York City. Previously, Dobbie and Fryer found that the Promise Academy had closed the black-white achievement gap, as measured by test scores, by the time sixth-grade lottery winners reached the eighth grade. Now the pair has looked to the school’s impact on more “medium-term” outcomes such as high school graduation, college enrollment, teen pregnancy, and incarceration—and they have found that the Promise Academy provides a huge human-capital boost. Six years after winning the admissions lottery, Promise Academy students not only score higher on the nationally normed Woodcock-Johnson math achievement tests than lottery losers, but they are more likely to enroll in college, by 24 percentage points. Additionally, female lottery winners are 12 percentage points less likely to become pregnant in their teens, while males are 4 percentage points less likely to be incarcerated. The Harlem Children’s Zone social and community-building services are well documented, but Dobbie and Fryer attribute Promise Academy’s success to the markers that make it a high-performing school (extended school time, high-quality teachers, data-driven decision making, and heightened expectations). This suggests that high-quality charters may have a bigger impact on a range of outcomes than previously thought. Hear hear! Bring on more research—and on a larger sample of charters.

SOURCE: Will Dobbie and Roland G. Fryer, Jr., “The Medium-Term Impacts of High-Achieving Charter Schools on Non-Test Score Outcomes,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2013.

Adam Emerson
Adam Emerson is a Director, Program on Parental Choice at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute