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Does Charter School Attendance Improve Test Scores?: Comments and Reactions on the Arizona Achievement Study

Listed author(s):
  • Christopher Nelson

    (The Evaluation Center, Western Michigan University)

  • Kevin Hollenbeck


    (W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research)

In a recent report, Solmon, Paark, and Garcia (2001) seek to identify the impact of attending charter schools on student achievement using data from Arizona. Based on a sophisticated statistical analysis, these authors report that charter school attendance increases test score gains of students. This note raises some questions about the interpretation of the results reported and some questions about the empirical approach and underlying data. First, the report relies on a 2-x-2 evaluation design with type of school (charter or traditional) attended in a base year as the rows and type of school in the ensuing year as the columns. The report compares the observations in a cell of the design matrix to all other cells. This note questions the validity of that approach and suggests that the way that the data were constructed allows comparisons only across the rows. Second, the note questions whether grade level was used in the data matching procedure used to construct the comparison sample. Third, the note questions whether sex was used as a covariate in the outcomes equation and whether building or district fixed effects were used to control for unobservable factors at those aggregate levels. Finally, the note suggests that marginal costs are more appropriate for a cost-benefit or cost effectiveness analysis than average costs, which were used in the summary section of the report.

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Paper provided by W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in its series Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles with number 01-70.

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Date of creation: Jul 2001
Handle: RePEc:upj:weupjo:01-70
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  1. Bettinger, Eric P., 2005. "The effect of charter schools on charter students and public schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 133-147, April.
  2. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1997. "Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," NBER Working Papers 5964, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2001. "Improving School Accountability Measures," NBER Working Papers 8156, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Randall W. Eberts & Kevin Hollenbeck, 2001. "An Examination of Student Achievement in Michigan Charter Schools," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 01-68, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
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