What Works Clearinghouse

“Charter Schools and the Road to College Readiness: The Effects on College Preparation, Attendance and Choice”

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) was established in 2002 as an initiative of the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education. The WWC is administered by the National Center for Education Evaluation within IES.
The goal of the WWC is to be a resource for informed education decision making. To reach this goal, the WWC identifies studies that provide credible and reliable evidence of the effectiveness of a given practice, program, or policy (referred to as “interventions”), and disseminates summary information and reports on the WWC website.

What is the study about?
This study examined whether attending a Boston charter school affected students’ high school and college outcomes. The study compared charter school students who were admitted via a random admission lottery and attended one of the six study charter schools to students who applied but were not admitted via lottery and instead attended another public school in Massachusetts.

What did the study report?
The study reported that students attending the six Boston charter schools included in the study scored significantly higher on the tenth grade state assessments in both English language arts and math, had significantly higher SAT scores, and were significantly more likely to attend a 4-year post-secondary institution than students who applied but were not admitted. There were no statistically significant differences between groups in AP exam passing rates, high school graduation rates, or overall college enrollment rates.

How does the WWC rate this study?
In this study, the authors used an indicator for winning a lottery for admission to a charter school as an instrumental variable for charter school attendance. This strategy estimates the impact of attending a charter school while filtering out the effect of other factors—such as the motivation of a student and his or her family—that could drive both attending a charter school and academic-related outcomes. The study may meet WWC standards without reservations, but additional information from study authors is needed to complete the review. A more thorough review (forthcoming) will determine the rating for the study and report more fully on its results.

Angrist, J. A., Cohodes, S. R., Dynarski, S. M., Pathak, P. A., & Walters, C. D. (2013). Charter schools and the road to college readiness: The effects on college preparation, attendance and choice. Boston, MA: The Boston Foundation and NewSchools Venture Fund.

Posted: July 2013
This quick review was prepared for the WWC by Mathematica Policy Research under contract ED-IES-13-C-0010.