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Charter School Graduates More Likely to Stay in College, Earn Higher Salaries

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Charter school graduates in Florida were more likely stay in college and earn higher salaries than their district school peers.

That's even though attending charter schools did not have a significant impact on student's test scores, according to a study published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

This study is significant, argue its authors, because research on charter schools has been largely focused on short-term effects, such as test scores, versus long-term—and arguably more important—outcomes such as getting college degrees and earning more money.

Researchers from Georgia State University, Vanderbilt University, and Mathematica Policy Research found that charter school graduates were 12 percent more likely to persist through their second year in college and, by the time they were in their mid-twenties, earned 12 percent more than their district school counterparts. Even when controlling for college enrollment, charter school graduates were six percent more likely to persist in college. 

The study, funded by the Joyce Foundation, also confirmed earlier findings from the Mathematica folks that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college.

(The Joyce Foundation provides grant support for Education Week's coverage of policy efforts to improve the teaching profession.)

Using data from the Florida Department of Education on student test scores, demographics, and college enrollment, as well as employment data from the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program, the study's primary analysis compared students that attended charter schools throughout high school to those that switched from a charter middle school to a district high school. 

Although the researchers ran several analyses to try to control for things like selection bias, they admit there are limitations to their methodology and that the findings can't necessarily be applied to charter school students in other states. But, they write: "Nonetheless, this early evidence of positive effects for these students on educational attainment and earnings in adulthood raises the question of whether charter schools' full long-term impacts on their students have been underestimated by studies that examine only test scores." 

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