The impact of charter schools in Texas



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This dissertation examines the effects of charter schools in Texas, using data from the Texas Education Agency for 190 charter schools and over 60,000 charter students. In Chapter II we examine charter effect test score gains for charter students. After controlling for individual student characteristics, we find that students in their first year in a charter school have large negative test score gains compared to when they were in traditional public school, and that charter schools that have been in operation for more than one year have higher average test score gains than new charter schools. Charter schools appear to have the most positive effects on African-American students. We find that the overall effect of being in a charter school for multiple years is that students have slightly lower average test score growth than when they were in a traditional public school. In Chapter III we examine the effect of charters on test score gains for students attending nearby traditional public schools. After controlling for campus and student characteristics, we find traditional public school districts and campuses that face greater competition from charter schools have higher average test score gains than other traditional public schools. This positive effect of charter competition is strongest for African-American and Hispanic students, and is focused entirely on students attending traditional public campuses in the bottom 50% of the initial campus average achievement distribution. In Chapter IV we examine the charter effect on the distribution of students by ability and race/ethnicity, as well as examining what factors are associated with a student choosing to move to a charter school. We find that students who move to charter schools tend to move to schools with a higher percentage of students of their same race/ethnicity, and that this gap is largest for African-American students. We also find that average math and reading test scores are lower than the statewide average at the traditional public schools that charter students leave, and that charter schools are attracting, on average, the lower-performing students from these lowperforming schools.