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Charter High Schools: A Path to College Success?

Abstract

In recent decades, policymakers and education advocates have been pushing for improvements in the rate of college attendance. These policymakers argue that with a declining manufacturing base, it more important than ever for students to have the necessarily skills for 21st century jobs. While the federal government has provided financial aid to post-secondary students for decades, other stakeholders such as the Gates Foundation are now eginning to explore what factors contribute to the likelihood of students not only attending but succeeding in college.

In our recently released report entitled "Charter Schools in Eight States", we found that charter high schools in Chicago and Florida are showing promising signs for promoting higher graduation and college attendance rates- students attending Chicago and Florida charter high schools are more likely to graduate high school by 7 to 15 percentage points and are more likely to attend college by 8 to 10 percentage points. These are obviously encouraging results. However, they do not show that these students are graduating from college. In fact, a recent study showed that many colleges have disturbingly high dropout rates (Hess, Schneider, Carey, and Kelly, 2009). Therefore, it is not only important to know whether students are graduating from high school and attending college, but also whether these students are progressing through college by accumulating the required credits and ultimately completing a degree.

We propose to expand on our previous study by updating our analysis of high-school graduation and college entry to see if the original patterns remain true, and by examining whether students who attended charter high schools are more likely to accumulate college credits and ultimately complete a degree. To answer these questions, we will add additional years of data to the existing data we collected from CPS. In our previous research our data only went through the 2006-07 school year. Because many of the charter high schools began operating only recently, sufficient time had not passed to allow us to examine whether many students were accumulating college credits and graduating college. In this extension, we will incorporate three additional years of data-allowing our analysis to go through the 2009-10 school year, and giving us a long enough time period to examine whether students were accumulating college credits and graduating college.In recent decades, policymakers and education advocates have been pushing for improvements in the rate of college attendance. These policymakers argue that with a declining manufacturing base, it more important than ever for students to have the necessarily skills for 21st century jobs. While the federal government has provided financial aid to post-secondary students for decades, other stakeholders such as the Gates Foundation are now beginning to explore what factors contribute to the likelihood of students not only attending but succeeding in college. In our recently released report entitled "Charter Schools in Eight States", we found that charter high schools in Chicago and Florida are showing promising signs for promoting higher graduation and college attendance rates- students attending Chicago and Florida charter high schools are more likely to graduate high school by 7 to 15 percentage points and are more likely to attend college by 8 to 10 percentage points. These are obviously encouraging results. However, they do not show that these students are graduating from college. In fact, a recent study showed that many colleges have disturbingly high dropout rates (Hess, Schneider, Carey, and Kelly, 2009). Therefore, it is not only important to know whether students are graduating from high school and attending college, but also whether these students are progressing through college by accumulating the required credits and ultimately completing a degree.

We propose to expand on our previous study by updating our analysis of high-school graduation and college entry to see if the original patterns remain true, and by examining whether students who attended charter high schools are more likely to accumulate college credits and ultimately complete a degree. To answer these questions, we will add additional years of data to the existing data we collected from CPS. In our previous research our data only went through the
2006-07 school year. Because many of the charter high schools began operating only recently, sufficient time had not passed to allow us to examine whether many students were accumulating college credits and graduating college. In this extension, we will incorporate three additional years of data-allowing our analysis to go through the 2009-10 school year, and giving us a long enough time period to examine whether students were accumulating college credits and
graduating college.