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Explaining Charter School Effectiveness

  • Joshua D. Angrist
  • Parag A. Pathak
  • Christopher R. Walters

Estimates using admissions lotteries suggest that urban charter schools boost student achievement, while charter schools in other settings do not. We explore student-level and school-level explanations for these differences using a large sample of Massachusetts charter schools. Our results show that urban charter schools boost achievement well beyond ambient non-charter levels (that is, the average achievement level for urban non-charter students), and beyond non-urban achievement in math. Student demographics explain some of these gains since urban charters are most effective for non-whites and low-baseline achievers. At the same time, non-urban charter schools are uniformly ineffective. Our estimates also reveal important school-level heterogeneity in the urban charter sample. A non-lottery analysis suggests that urban schools with binding, well-documented admissions lotteries generate larger score gains than under-subscribed urban charter schools with poor lottery records. We link the magnitude of charter impacts to distinctive pedagogical features of urban charters such as the length of the school day and school philosophy. The relative effectiveness of urban lottery-sample charters is accounted for by over-subscribed urban schools' embrace of the No Excuses approach to education.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17332.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17332.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Publication status: published as Joshua D. Angrist & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2013. "Explaining Charter School Effectiveness," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 1-27, October.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17332
Note: CH ED LS PE
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  1. Joshua D. Angrist & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2011. "Explaining Charter School Effectiveness," NBER Working Papers 17332, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Abadie, Alberto, 2003. "Semiparametric instrumental variable estimation of treatment response models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 231-263, April.
  3. Scott Imberman, 2008. "Achievement and Behavior in Charter Schools: Drawing a More Complete Picture," Working Papers 2009-01, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
  4. Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2010. "Inputs and Impacts in Charter Schools: KIPP Lynn," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 239-43, May.
  5. Will Dobbie & Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2011. "Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City," NBER Working Papers 17632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
  7. Vilsa E. Curto & Roland G. Fryer, Jr., 2011. "Estimating the Returns to Urban Boarding Schools: Evidence from SEED," NBER Working Papers 16746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2011. "Injecting Successful Charter School Strategies into Traditional Public Schools: A Field Experiment in Houston," NBER Working Papers 17494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2010. "Who Benefits from KIPP?," NBER Working Papers 15740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
  11. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak, 2011. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters And Pilots," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 699-748.
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