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Charter Schools and Student Outcomes: What Have We Learned Over Two Decades?
CALDER Policy Brief No. 18-0919
Over the past two decades, charter schools have become the most popular form of school choice, especially in urban school districts. As such, a great deal of empirical research has focused on charter schools. Looking at the literature on the student achievement effects of charter school attendance, the weight of the evidence suggests a moderately positive effect with significant heterogeneity in effectiveness across different types of charter schools and across different states/school districts. For example, “No Excuses” charters such as Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools have been shown to outperform other charters and traditional public schools in raising student achievement. Educational attainment effects of charter schools have been more positive, with significant effects on high school graduation, college enrollment, and persistence in college. That said, there is still need for more research on (1) the effects of charter schools on later life outcomes including earnings and risky behavior; (2) whether effective charter providers will remain effective at a larger scale; (3) whether the policies and practices of effective charter schools can be successfully implemented in the traditional public school sector; and (4) whether certain state/school district policies better facilitate the growth of an effective charter school sector.