Bigger Bang, Fewer Bucks? The Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S. Cities

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DeAngelis, Corey; Wolf, Patrick; Maloney, Larry; May, Jay
Elsevier BV
charter school; school choice; school productivity; return-on-investment; Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research; Educational Leadership; Education Economics; Other Educational Administration and Supervision; charter school; school choice; school productivity; return-on-investment
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We examine the differences in cost-effectiveness and return-on-investment (ROI) for public charter schools and traditional public schools (TPS) in eight major cities in the United States. The cities are Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, New York City, San Antonio, and the District of Columbia. We utilize data on how much money is invested in public charter schools and TPS, what levels of student achievement are attained across the two public school sectors, and how much economic payoff our society can expect to receive as a result of the educational investments in each sector. Ours is the first study to examine these differences across the United States at the city level. We find that public charter schools outperform TPS on both productivity metrics overall and for all eight cities. On average, public charter schools are around 35 percent more cost-effective and produce 38-53 percent higher return-on-investment than TPS, depending on how one weights the sample.