Study: FL charter schools grads stay in college longer, make more $

Ron Matus


Students who attend Florida charter high schools are more likely to persist in college and earn more money than their counterparts in district schools, an “especially striking” finding given little differences in test scores, according to a new working paper. (Hat tip: Colin Hitt at Jay P. Greene’s Blog).

The paper is co-authored by four researchers, including Tim Sass, formerly an economics professor at Florida State University and now at Georgia State University. It builds on earlier research that found students in charter high schools in Florida and Chicago were more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college than like students in traditional public schools. (Both groups examined attended charter schools in eighth grade.) The more recent data continues to show the same thing. But the researchers also found:

  • Charter high school students in Florida persisted in college for at least two years at a rate 13 percentage points higher than like district students.
  • Charter high school students in Florida earned an estimated $2,347 more annually, when they were 23 to 25 years old, than like district students.

In both cases, the researchers found the differences to be statistically significant. They write in their conclusion:

“Exactly what charter schools are doing to produce substantial positive effects on educational attainment and earnings is an open question. Charter high schools might be able to produce positive effects on initial college entry merely by providing better counseling and encouragement to apply and enroll. But that could not explain higher rates of persistence in college or higher earnings, suggesting that charter high schools are endowing their students with skills that are useful for success in college and career but that test scores do not capture. The fact that charter high school students have higher earnings even if they do not attend college further supports this interpretation …

“Positive impacts on long-term attainment outcomes and earnings are, of course, more consequential than outcomes on test scores in school. It is possible that charter schools’ full long-term impacts on their students have been underestimated by studies that examine only test scores.”

In Florida, those studies include this, this, this and this.

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