More charter school benefits

February 9th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal revolution blogs:

Private and appear to have significant but modest effects on test scores but much larger effects on educational attainment and even on long-run earnings. A new working paper from Booker, Sass, Gill and Zimmer and associated brief from Mathematica Policy Research finds that charter schools raise high school graduation, college enrollment and college persistence rates by ~7 to 13%. Moreover, the income of former charter school students when measured at 23-25 years old is 12.7% higher than similar students. Similar in this context is measured by students who were in charter schools in grade 8 but who then switched to a traditional high school–in many ways this is a conservative comparison group since any non-random switchers would presumably switch to a better school (other controls are also included).

The effect of charters on graduation rates is consistent with a larger literature finding that Catholic schools increase graduation rates (e.g. here and here). I am also not surprised that charters increase earnings but the earnings gain is surprisingly large; especially so when we consider that the gain appears just as large among charter and non-charter students both of whom attended college (i.e. the gain is not just through the college attendance effect).

I wouldn’t bet on the size of the earnings effect just yet but what we are learning from this and related research, such as Chetty et al. on teachers, is that better schools and better teachers appear to have a significant and beneficial long-run impact that is not fully captured by higher test scores.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could replicate that impact in New Zealand.

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40 Responses to “More charter school benefits”

  1. ChardonnayGuy (1,207 comments) says:

    Much tends to depend on the catchment area, though, doesn’t it? If the school can afford to pay well-trained teachers and a particular socio-economic stratum, then it will be reflected in its institutional performance, regardless of whether or not it is a private, charter or state school. Back in the seventies, I went to a fundamentalist private school in ChCh, which, frankly, was probably a sinkhole for fundamentalist teachers who couldn’t get jobs in the state sector.

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  2. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (890 comments) says:

    Nothing matters bros. All charter schools will be closed once the Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana government takes over in November 2014. Gone by lunch time. So no point in highlighting any benefits…Move on….

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  3. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    Charter Schools weed out the kids who would make them look bad in school ranking – that’s why they have fewer ESOL kids, fewer kids with disabilities especially profound disabilities and fewer males.

    Having been pushed out of the Charter School, these kids go back to public school, often with more difficulties than before starting the Charter School, and often without the funding tranferred back as well. So public schools are left teaching high needs students with no resources. It’s surprising that the Charter Schools aren’t hitting it out of the ball park even with their pet reserach group Mathematica to do the stats.

    It may be something we could live with if it was only a few kids were gettting shafted but the attrition rate in Charter Schools is typically 40% over a 4 year period.

    Charter Schools are good for making a profit for their “management group” and that’s about it.

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  4. ChardonnayGuy (1,207 comments) says:

    I think much would depend on the quality of educational assistance provided in this context. If the school has good, quality assured ESOL programmes, then it might be able to tap into the lucrative Chinese school student catchment, regardless of whose auspices it is governed under. Some charter schools might have good programmes, some might have none, some private schools might and some state schools might. Isn’t school governance really a dependent variable in this whole context? And is it the real issue at stake here?

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  5. Than (475 comments) says:

    All charter schools will be closed once the Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana government takes over in November 2014. Gone by lunch time.

    Sadly, this is almost certainly true. Whenever Labour next gets into power (whether that is 2014, 2017, or later) Charter Schools will be axed, regardless of how they actually do. The teacher unions demand it and Labour will comply.

    They’ve already declared that Charter Schools don’t work, and have pre-planned excuses to explain away any inconvenient evidence showing otherwise (see mpledger ‘s comment above for example). Blind ideology and the self-interest of teachers trumping potential benefits to children.

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  6. wikiriwhis business (4,019 comments) says:

    “Charter Schools are good for making a profit for their “management group” and that’s about it.”

    All fits in with the privatisation agenda

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  7. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could replicate that impact in New Zealand.

    We could – all we’d need to do would be to implement changes to our public school system to make it as poorly-performing as the US one.

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  8. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    This charter school battle line is overstated (and the literature all over the place).

    It clear there’s a long tail in NZ schools that requires attention, but the long tail requires systemic solutions, not pockets of ad hoc experimentation.

    From a very brief read of this, it’s clear the evidence is limited and the positive outcomes associated with only certain types of charter schools for specific cohorts of learners. If that’s the basis on which charter school boosters rely, it’s pretty obvious why it’s only ACT proselyting.

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  9. Ross12 (1,432 comments) says:

    Paul
    “It clear there’s a long tail in NZ schools that requires attention, but the long tail requires systemic solutions,..”

    You are right but the tail has been there for a very long time and nothing has been done in the way of “systematic solutions” or if anything has been tried it clearly has not worked, because the tail is still there.

    So I think an attempt with something else , even on small scale, is warranted.

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  10. Fentex (986 comments) says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could replicate that impact in New Zealand.

    It is always good to do better in education, but what reason do we have to think that there’s any comparison between New Zealands circumstances and where these studies occur?

    That article seems to be very interested in pointing out how improvements beyond test results were measured, which suggests to me they were taken in an environment with an unhealthy emphasis on testing – which doesn’t seem to be a problem in NZ (I think we’re more likely to hear people lamenting an absence of testing in NZ).

    I think charter schools ought be given a chance to prove themselves, but I don’t think NZ’s situation is very comparable to the U.S and we not only shouldn’t expect similar result we shouldn’t be looking for them because our problems aren’t their problems and what we need improve is different too.

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  11. wat dabney (3,775 comments) says:

    the long tail requires systemic solutions

    Systemic solutions are the very last things that are going to work on the long tail, almost by definition.

    What’s required instead is for local experimentation and tailored solutions; something the market is very good at.

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  12. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    Ross12

    I think you make a valid point that some attempt is warranted.

    The tail in education stays because the status quo is the only acceptable position to the teachers unions and therefore the Labour party. Although the union acknowledge change is needed, all change is bad so status quo remains as every proposal for change is deemed “not perfect for everyone” and therefore resisted.

    Everything tried to improve outcomes will fail when it’s not supported by the union. I also suspect that irrespective of the outcomes from any charter schools they will be wiped out by Labour acting in the best interests of union membership numbers rather than student outcomes.

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  13. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    mpledger

    It may be something we could live with if it was only a few kids were gettting shafted but the attrition rate in Charter Schools is typically 40% over a 4 year period.

    Yes, we’ve got a similar attrition rate here in NZ over the last 4 years … doh !

    Let me guess, it’s not valid to quote success stories from other countries because their problems are not the same as ours, but it’s valid to quote failures because charter schools are bad and the ACT party are grumpy old rich white men who eat babies and beat woman.

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  14. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    The tail in education stays because the status quo is the only acceptable position to the teachers unions and therefore the Labour party.

    This is pretty hilarious stuff when you consider just how different the NZ school system is from even a few decades ago. I think you’ll find the tail stays because there is, by definition, always a bottom 20% – it could be true that the content of that bottom 20% is in even worse shape than previous decades, but you’d really need to look outside of schools for why that is.

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  15. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt

    The curriculum has changed a lot, the assessment systems have changed. Teachers get more ‘non contact’ time now than ever before. But they are still under a collective with their heads in the sand that there is a large proportion still falling through the cracks.

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  16. nasska (11,580 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt

    So in this case you can see that percentages don’t always show the true story.

    Now, how are you going in getting your head around the definition of poverty as used by the socialists?

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  17. Rightandleft (663 comments) says:

    There will always be a segment of the population that will not achieve NCEA Level 2. This is because the 1 in 7 failing includes special needs students with severe learning disabilities and recent migrants with little or no English language skills. I have many such students in mainstream classes with no teacher aides and little extra support. Some of them get a period a day in the Learning Behaviour Support unit and we only have that because our school chooses to dedicate significant funds to it. The state won’t even pay for severely dyslexic students to be tested so they can qualify for a reader/writer for exams!

    Now there are schools where the fail rates are much higher than 1 in 7. But the best way we can help these schools is by sharing successful practices from high achieving schools in the same areas with the same type of demographics. The new change and executive principal positions are a good way to work at that. That’s why most of the unions (except NZEI) are supportive of this change.

    Partnership Schools are not a good solution because they only help a very small proportion of students and cost far too much to replicate across they system. The studies DPF keeps citing from the US are irrelevant because The whole NZ system is made up of charter schools by US standards. They mention private Catholic schools doing better that US publics as well for example. But here in NZ Catholic schools are part of the state system. And here as in the US they tend to do better because the students sent to Catholic schools tend to have more supportive and involved families.

    I attended a US private Catholic high school. Our class sizes were bigger than in public schools, they used old style rote learning methods and there was little technology. We even had regular old blackboards and this was the 2000s. But we did better than public school kids because we passed an exam to get in, our parents cared enough about our educations to enroll us away from our local schools, and the school was able to expel any students who didn’t conform to the strict discipline system. We did well because of selective admission and selective retention. The same is true of most American charter schools. Washington DC charters have 28 times the expulsion rate of local public schools.

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  18. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    Now, how are you going in getting your head around the definition of poverty as used by the socialists?

    More to the point, how’s the government going? If they’d get off their arses and come up with a useful measure of poverty that actually equated to hardship, we could dispense with all the annoying misinformation from CPAG.

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  19. Anthony (796 comments) says:

    Rightandleft how do you know charter schools are too expensive to replicate – if done on a larger scale? Private schools cost little more than state schools to run.

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  20. Rightandleft (663 comments) says:

    Anthony,

    The average state school student is funded at the rate of $6,978 a year. The average across the five pilot partnership schools is $20,255 per student for the 2014 year. One of them is getting over $40k per student this year. Despite this funding the two most expensive of these schools cannot deliver the full curriculum without help from local state schools.

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  21. Anthony (796 comments) says:

    Thanks – that’s quite expensive but some private schools run a lot cheaper than that – and I’d guess your figure doesn’t provide for any return on all the real estate that schools sit on?

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  22. nasska (11,580 comments) says:

    Rightandleft

    Is any of this money in the form of “one offs” or establishment funding?

    IOW what would the partnership schools expect to get per pupil in the 2015 year?

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  23. adze (2,126 comments) says:

    More to the point, how’s the government going? If they’d get off their arses and come up with a useful measure of poverty that actually equated to hardship, we could dispense with all the annoying misinformation from CPAG.

    You normally come up with better than that deflection, PM.

    Here’s a rough and ready measure of poverty, one or more of the following:

    – If you don’t have the means to feed yourself/your family
    – If you don’t have the means to provide reasonable shelter for same
    – If you don’t have the means to provide education for same
    – If you don’t have the means to provide reasonable clothing and warmth for same
    – If you don’t have reasonable means to maintain the health of same
    – if you don’t have reasonable means to build meaningful and productive relationships

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  24. big bruv (13,929 comments) says:

    Another benefit of charter schools is that they drive the left crazy. That has always got to be a benefit.

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  25. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    adze: yep, seems straightforward enough – until you try and put a number on how many people meet the criteria. What we could do with is a cabinet minister specifically responsible for being able to tell us how many people really are living in poverty – kind of like Paula Bennett, but actually useful for something.

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  26. Rightandleft (663 comments) says:

    Nasska,

    No the figures do not include the establishment costs for creating these schools. If we included that the price would be nearly double the figures quoted above. As an example He Puna Marama will get $2,016,630 in funding for 2014, with 50 students, working out to $40,332 per student. That does not include the one off establishment cost of $1,880,693.

    The schools cost more in part because they are so small. But that doesn’t entirely explain it. He Puna Marama is getting $700k more in funding than South Auckland Middle School, despite having only about half the number of students. New schools are also always more expensive, but that is why they are only generally started when there is genuine roll growth. Expanding this experiment isn’t just expensive. It benefits only a very few students for the high cost. The current 5 will have around 840 students out of the 740,000 total students in NZ.

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  27. nasska (11,580 comments) says:

    Rightandleft

    In that case I’ll concede that I look forward to someone from the Min. of Education giving us a little more information on the costings.

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  28. Scott (1,805 comments) says:

    I like charter schools. I would like to see more market and more diversity in education. Not everything has to be run by the government.

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  29. adze (2,126 comments) says:

    PM, So you acknowledge that actually putting a number on people living in poverty is a challenge (the Ministry of Social Development website itself says there has been little progress since the 1970s), but apparently you have privileged knowledge that it’s a big and urgent enough problem that we must ignore findings from overseas charter schools?

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  30. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    I don’t have privileged knowledge, but it doesn’t take any special knowledge to see that the fact you can use school decile as a proxy for school ‘performance’ means there’s one motherfucker of a correlation between household income of a school’s intake and the educational achievement of that intake. It’s a correlation so strong that it makes every other factor pale into insignificance. So yes, when I see the government claiming that household income’s a trivial factor and maybe breaking the teacher unions and implementing more private schools will help, I consider the people making up that government to be either extremely stupid or engaged in some political programme that has little to do with education.

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  31. Anthony (796 comments) says:

    PM, swearing won’t help convince us of your argument – and incidentally the correlation is not that strong – try reading the recent Economist article on the subject!

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  32. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    The tail in education stays because the status quo is the only acceptable position to the teachers unions and therefore the Labour party.

    Or it originates in problems that no amount of schooling can fix.

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  33. wat dabney (3,775 comments) says:

    The average state school student is funded at the rate of $6,978 a year. The average across the five pilot partnership schools is $20,255 per student for the 2014 year…

    As was shown in another recent discussion of charter schools here, this comparison is completely invalid and dishonest and serves only to mislead. And yes, to no one’s surprise, it was put about by the rent-seeking state-sector teachers’ union.

    Government policy explicitly prescribes funding equivalence between state and public schools.

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  34. adze (2,126 comments) says:

    PM,
    ” it doesn’t take any special knowledge to see that the fact you can use school decile as a proxy for school ‘performance’ ”

    Which, if true, is interesting; because the decile rating is calculated not just on household income but on the levels of parental educational qualification, their occupational skill level, how crowded each dwelling is and the percentage of parents who have been on a benefit in the past year.

    And you know what else predicts child academic performance in school? The success of parents in education: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2853053/

    Furthermore the household income level is a relative measure (compared to the rest of the country). So depending on how the above factors are weighted when assigning a decile rating to a community, your argument appears to conflate a few more factors than simply “low income = poor performance in school”.

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  35. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    but it doesn’t take any special knowledge to see that the fact you can use school decile as a proxy for school ‘performance’ means there’s one motherfucker of a correlation between household income of a school’s intake and the educational achievement of that intake.

    In Australian schools, its very clear on the NAPLAN myschools site that the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage is directly related to results. Despite this undeniably clear signal, lots of the discussion, just like here, is on the noise.

    @Wat Dabney: no, not its not. Your’s is a statement, not an argument, and a wrong one too.

    See how easy it is, but how meaningless too?

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  36. Rightandleft (663 comments) says:

    Wat Dabney,

    Would you care to explain your statement that the massive difference in funding between the partnership schools and state schools is invalid? I didn’t just take the PPTA’s word for it by the way. I read through the contracts of the partnership schools and the Cabinet paper on them. The numbers are correct. The numbers don’t include the start up costs either, and those are significant costs in themselves.

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  37. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    There always seems to be as much negative research on Charter schools as positive and trolling through the internet looking for positive or negative material on charter schools to support your particular bias will not make the new zealand experiment successful or a failure. I am cynical as to the motivation for the government pouring millions into this Act programme. It is probably as much to try to send a message to unionised teachers as it is for the benefit of kids.

    If it is successful, great but it needs to be measured honestly. will these schools for example have the same ration of special needs children, children with behavioural issues that are counted in state schools National standards data. Perhaps not.

    One thing that will always be consistent however is the people against charter schools are going to troll the internet for negative artices and the supporters will troll the internet for positive data, none of which seems particularly reliable. We will just need to wait and see what happens here and hopefully despite to political BS surrounding this programme there are some good outcomes for the kids.

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  38. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt

    So given the decile of a school is correlated to its effectiveness I think it’s great we have the zoning system in place to make sure we keep kids from poor neighbourhoods locked into lower performing schools while more affluent zones enjoy better outcomes. The socialist mentality of ensuring a large chunk of society is reliant on the state in perpetuity is functioning as designed.

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  39. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    There are some really worried unionised left-wing bludgers, representing themselves as teachers, who see these charter schools exposing them for the useless good for nothing socialist indoctrinated arseholes they are.

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  40. jcuk (693 comments) says:

    It will be sad and bad if the Left replace National and put the kibosh on the NZ experiment with charter schools so we will never know if it works for us … we know it works overseas … so we must ensure National has a third term.

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