The evolution of charter school quality

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Patrick L. Baude, Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
Marcus Casey, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
Eric A. Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, Stanford University
Greg Phelan, PhD Student, University of Texas at Dallas
Steven G. Rivkin, Professor of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago


Studies of the charter sector typically compare charters and traditional public schools at a point in time. These comparisons are potentially misleading because many charter-related reforms require time to generate results. We study quality dynamics among Texas charter schools from 2001-2011. School quality in the charter sector was initially highly variable and on average lower than traditional public schools. However, exits, improvement of existing charter schools, and higher quality of new entrants increased charter effectiveness relative to traditional public schools despite an acceleration in the rate of sector expansion in the latter half of the decade. We present evidence that reduced student mobility and an increased share of charters adhering to No Excuses- style curricula contribute to these improvements. Although student selection into charter schools becomes more favorable over time in terms of prior achievement and behavior, such compositional improvements appear to contribute little to the charter sector gains. Moreover, accounting for student composition in terms of prior achievement and behavior has only a small effect on estimates of the higher average quality of No Excuses schools.

This work was done in conjunction with the Texas Schools Project at the University of Texas at Dallas. Ross Cole provided superb research assistance. The conclusions of this research do not necessarily reflect the opinions or official position of the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, or the State of Texas. We thank the American Institutes for Research and Institute for Education Sciences, US Department of Education for financial support.

April 10, 2018


Patrick Baude Marcus Casey Eric Hanushek Greg Phelan Steven Rivkin



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