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Impact of Charter School Attendance on Student Achievement in Michigan




Proponents of school reform have argued that charter schools and vouchers can provide adequate market pressure to improve the performance of traditional public schools. While the number of charter schools and student enrollment have burgeoned, relatively little attention has been paid to their effects on student achievement. Proponents of charter schools suggest a direct effect on student achievement through the restructuring of teaching and learning processes and an indirect effect through peer effects on learning and through the market forces of competition. Of course, competitive pressures may result in higher achievement in traditional public schools as well. This paper focuses on student achievement in charter schools in Michigan. The analyses presented in the paper suggest that students attending charter schools in Michigan are not reaching the same levels of achievement as students in traditional public schools in the same districts. In order to analyze the effectiveness of charter schools relative to their traditional public school counterparts, we examine the difference in student outcomes, as measured by the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP). The State makes available the MEAP results each year along with limited demographic data that are self-reported by students when they take the tests. We rely mainly on this data set together with additional building- and district- level data that are supplied by local districts and made available on the Michigan Department of Education's (MDE's) website. Five years of MEAP scores from 1996/97 through 200/01 for individual fourth and fifth grade students are analyzed. By pairing charter schools with their "host" (meaning geographically co-located) districts, we attempt to create the local "market" for educational services in which both the charter schools and the public school districts compete. Several models of the difference between test score levels of students attending charter schools versus those from traditional public schools are estimated. In virtually all specifications, each of which controls for student, building, and district characteristics, students attending charter schools have lower test scores than students in traditional public schools. The magnitudes of the results vary by grade, year, and subject matter, but are generally on the order of 3 10 percent. We argue that our estimates of the negative differentials may be biased toward zero because we have not controlled for selection bias.

Suggested Citation

  • Randall W. Eberts & Kevin Hollenbeck, 2002. "Impact of Charter School Attendance on Student Achievement in Michigan," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 02-80, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:upj:weupjo:02-80

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Martin, Stephanie M., 2010. "The determinants of school district salary incentives: An empirical analysis of, where and why," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 1143-1153, December.
    3. Booker, Kevin & Gilpatric, Scott M. & Gronberg, Timothy & Jansen, Dennis, 2008. "The effect of charter schools on traditional public school students in Texas: Are children who stay behind left behind?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 123-145, July.
    4. 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.
    5. David R. Garcia & Lee McIlroy & Rebecca T. Barber, 2008. "Starting Behind: A Comparative Analysis of the Academic Standing of Students Entering Charter Schools," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 89(1), pages 199-216.
    6. Kaoru Nabeshima, 2003. "Raising the quality of secondary education in East Asia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3140, The World Bank.
    7. Brian Gill & P. Mike Timpane & Karen E. Ross & Dominic J. Brewer & Kevin Booker, "undated". "Rhetoric Versus Reality: What We Know and What We Need to Know About Vouchers and Charter Schools," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 89d65ce14efd402a9de58cf93, Mathematica Policy Research.
    8. Booker, Kevin & Gilpatric, Scott M. & Gronberg, Timothy & Jansen, Dennis, 2007. "The impact of charter school attendance on student performance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(5-6), pages 849-876, June.
    9. repec:mpr:mprres:5572 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    charter; schools; Michigan; achievement; Hollenbeck; Eberts; Upjohn;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy


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