Charter Schools and the Road to College Readiness: The Effects on College Preparation, Attendance and Choice”

What Works Clearinghouse; July 10, 2013

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) was estab­lished in 2002 as an ini­tia­tive of the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education. The WWC is admin­is­tered by the National Center for Education Evaluation within IES.


The goal of the WWC is to be a resource for informed edu­ca­tion deci­sion mak­ing. To reach this goal, the WWC iden­ti­fies stud­ies that pro­vide cred­i­ble and reli­able evi­dence of the effec­tive­ness of a given prac­tice, pro­gram, or pol­icy (referred to as “inter­ven­tions”), and dis­sem­i­nates sum­mary infor­ma­tion and reports on the WWC website.



What is the study about?

This study exam­ined whether attend­ing a Boston char­ter school affected stu­dents’ high school and col­lege out­comes. The study com­pared char­ter school stu­dents who were admit­ted via a ran­dom admis­sion lot­tery and attended one of the six study char­ter schools to stu­dents who applied but were not admit­ted via lot­tery and instead attended another pub­lic school in Massachusetts.


What did the study report?

The study reported that stu­dents attend­ing the six Boston char­ter schools included in the study scored sig­nif­i­cantly higher on the tenth grade state assess­ments in both English lan­guage arts and math, had sig­nif­i­cantly higher SAT scores, and were sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to attend a 4-year post-secondary insti­tu­tion than stu­dents who applied but were not admit­ted. There were no sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences between groups in AP exam pass­ing rates, high school grad­u­a­tion rates, or over­all col­lege enroll­ment rates.


How does the WWC rate this study?

In this study, the authors used an indi­ca­tor for win­ning a lot­tery for admis­sion to a char­ter school as an instru­men­tal vari­able for char­ter school atten­dance. This strat­egy esti­mates the impact of attend­ing a char­ter school while fil­ter­ing out the effect of other factors—such as the moti­va­tion of a stu­dent and his or her family—that could drive both attend­ing a char­ter school and academic-related out­comes. The study may meet WWC stan­dards with­out reser­va­tions, but addi­tional infor­ma­tion from study authors is needed to com­plete the review. A more thor­ough review (forth­com­ing) will deter­mine the rat­ing for the study and report more fully on its results.



Angrist, J. A., Cohodes, S. R., Dynarski, S. M., Pathak, P. A., & Walters, C. D. (2013). Charter schools and the road to col­lege readi­ness: The effects on col­lege prepa­ra­tion, atten­dance and choice. Boston, MA: The Boston Foundation and NewSchools Venture Fund.


Posted: July 2013

This quick review was pre­pared for the WWC by Mathematica Policy Research under con­tract ED-IES-13-C-0010.