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"Using data from the Promise Academy in the Harlem Children's Zone, we provide a proof-of-concept that the best practices used by high-performing charter schools can impact adult outcomes," says Will Dobbie. (Credit: Ms. SmittyB/Flickr)

education

Do charter schools pay off for students later?

A study with more than 400 students shows that poor, urban students at a Harlem charter school were 100 percent less likely to be incarcerated than peers in Harlem public schools.

The students were also 49 percent more likely to attend college and 71 percent less likely to become pregnant, researchers report.

Test scores also improved for students attending Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy Charter School, which has a longer school year and a comprehensive network of community resources.

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The findings—some of the first to examine the benefits of a charter school after graduation—appear in the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Tests and questions

Together with Harvard Professor of Economics Roland Fryer, Will Dobbie, assistant professor of economics and public affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, analyzed survey data collected from 407 of the 570 6th graders who entered the Harlem charter school through a lottery system in 2005 and 2006.

Students responded to questions related to their education achievement and attainment, their risk-taking behaviors, and personal health. They also evaluated the students’ math and reading skills through the Woodcock-Johnson intelligence tests, a series of exams used to determine a wider range of cognitive skills.

Dobbie and Fryer then augmented these results with administrative data from the New York City Department of Education and the National Student Clearinghouse. They compared those Harlem students that won the lottery with the 163 students who did not.

Adult outcomes

While the researchers did see extremely lower rates of incarceration and pregnancy and higher rates of college attendance, they found little impact on asthma, obesity, or mental health on those same students—though lottery winners reported eating more nutritious foods.

“Using data from the Promise Academy in the Harlem Children’s Zone, we provide a proof-of-concept that the best practices used by high-performing charter schools can impact adult outcomes,” says Dobbie.

Dobbie says Harlem’s Promise Academy is reasonably representative of charter schools nationwide and only differs in that it serves more economically disadvantaged youth.

The Broad Foundation and the Ford Foundation provided funding for the research.

Source: Princeton University

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