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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Charter Schools and Student Outcomes: Econometric Techniques for Valid Causal Inference

Sally Sadoff, University of Chicago
Rachel Garrett, University of Chicago
Devon Haskell, University of Chicago
Ginger Stoker, University of Chicago

Abstract: Some critics argue that bureaucratic regulations stifle the capacity of educators in conventional public schools to develop clear missions, attract and retain qualified teachers, craft effective curricula, provide sound academic leadership, and respond creatively to the needs and preferences of parents. In this view, charter schools offer a promising alternative, because the chartering organizations are given a comparatively free hand to shape school policy and practice in order to promote learning. But do charters improve student outcomes? The four IES pre-doctoral fellows presenting this session have some experience in attempting to answer this question and a strong interest in pursuing it further. The participants will first share their experiences with data from Texas and Illinois. Haskell will discuss effects on varied outcomes and for various subgroups in elementary schools in Texas. Stoker will compare charter high schools to magnet high schools and neighborhood high schools in Chicago. Sadoff will then discuss alternative methods for achieving valid causal inference in these and future studies planned at the University of Chicago: a) lottery studies, in which applicants are admitted to a charter or rejected based on chance alone, creating a randomized experiment; b) fixed effects estimates, in which students are compared before and after a transition between regular public schools and charter schools; and c) pre-assignment matching on observed background characteristics prior to assignment to a charter or a regular public