Charters: Driving College Success, Labor Market Success

Collin Hitt writes up this new study:

Since their inception in 1992, the number of charter schools has grown to more than 6,000 in 40 states, serving more than 2 million students. Various studies have examined charter schools’ impacts on test scores, and a few have begun to examine longer-term outcomes including graduation and college attendance.

This paper is the first to estimate charter schools’ effects on student earnings, alongside effects on educational attainment.

Using data from Chicago and Florida, we find evidence that charter high schools may have substantial positive effects on persistence in college as well as high-school graduation and college entry.

In Florida, where we can link students to workforce data in adulthood, we also find evidence that charter high schools produce large positive effects on subsequent earnings. 

You can read the whole study here, by a team of 4 scholars. 

Not to talk smack to the home of non-playoff NFL franchises like the Dolphins, Bears, and Jaguars....not to talk smack to the good folks in Chicago and Florida toiling in charter schools, but let's be real: they're only so-so compared to charters in other parts of the country. 

For example, here is Florida charters compared to other charter schools, in the Stanford CREDO report. 

And here is Chicago, according to a 2013 Fordham Foundation analysis.  A little better than district schools. 

(Note the inverse correlation of the charter sector quality and the NFL team quality.)

So if Florida, with "okay" charters, gets a nice bump for kids in earnings, it may be that Boston, with the top charters ever measured by Stanford, gets an even bigger bump for its charter kids, both in college-going, and perhaps in earnings.  Time will tell as more of these studies come out.  For now, great work by the authors. 

Hitt puts it in context, writing:

Two years ago, the front page of the New York Times carried a headline that teachers can have lasting impacts on student’s earnings in adulthood, citing groundbreaking work by Jonah Rockoff, Raj Chetty and John Friedman. For a single school year, a one standard deviation increase in teacher quality – as measured by a teacher’s valued-added impact on test scores – increased a student’s annual earnings at age 28 by $182.

Compare that to the impact of attending a charter high school in Florida: a $2,347 increase in annual earnings by age 25. Using Rockoff, Chetty and Friedman’s estimate, that’s equivalent to a student experiencing a one standard deviation in teacher quality every year from kindergarten through the twelfth grade.

Final note.  Yes, Peyton Manning is at home.  Yes, he has Welker.  Yes, it will be nice and warm in Denver, so Peyton won't have his "cold" problem.  Yes, the Pats are missing their top 5 receivers from last year (injury, retirement, free agency, retirement, in jail for murder), and 3.5 of their new 4 receivers are injured, too. 

But if Florida charters can find a way to create the equivalent effect for students of a "great teacher every year" in terms of earnings, maybe* Tom Brady finds a way to win the AFC Championship Game. 

*Word chosen for equivocation purposes.