This is a very important study using a rigorous causal research design that shows long-term benefits to attending charters in FL on college persistence and later life earnings. Importantly, these benefits are produced despite the fact that there seems to be little or no test score gain associated with FL charter schools and despite the fact that these are mostly Mom and Pop schools rather than the preferred “no excuses” model of charter school.
So, building our entire education reform strategy around the idea that short-term changes in test scores correspond with long-term changes in life outcomes is inconsistent with a growing body of evidence. Choice reforms in particular have demonstrated that long term gains in educational attainment (and now earnings) can be produced without seeing short term gains in test scores (and vice versa). Trying to pick the winners among schools of choice based on test scores could lead to horribly wrong policy decisions. Parents appear to know more than portfolio managers, choice regulators, and other central planners.
Since their inception in 1992, the number of charter schools has grown to more than 6,800 nationally, serving nearly three million students. Various studies have examined charter schools’ impacts on test scores, and a few have begun to examine longer-term outcomes including graduation and college attendance. This paper is the first to estimate charter schools’ effects on earnings in adulthood, alongside effects on educational attainment. Using data from Florida, we first confirm previous research (Booker et al., 2011) that students attending charter high schools are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. We then examine two longer-term outcomes not previously studied in research on charter schools—college persistence and earnings. We find that students attending charter high schools are more likely to persist in college, and that in their mid-20s they experience higher earnings.