MIT Study Shows Students Attending Boston Charter High Schools Outperform Boston Peers on Numerous College-Ready Indicators; 48% of Applications Were to Match High School

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The results from a groundbreaking study from MIT confirm the performance of Boston public charter schools on numerous college-ready indicators. The study suggests that attending a charter high school increases the rates at which students pass the MCAS, boosts students’ SAT scores and AP participation rates, and raises the likelihood that they will attend a four-year college.

This study is genuine validation of Match’s work over the past decade. - Stig Leschly, Match’s CEO

Match Education, which operates three high-performing public charter schools in Boston, announced today the results of a comprehensive study by MIT researchers examining the effect of attending a charter high school in Boston. The study found that charter school students outperformed their peers in traditional Boston public schools on numerous college-readiness indicators. Forty-eight percent of the charter school lottery applications that formed the basis of the study were to Match Charter High School.

“This study is genuine validation of Match’s work over the past decade,” said Stig Leschly, Match’s CEO. “We’re proud of these results, and of all our teachers and students who worked so hard to produce them.”

This first-of-its kind study, funded by The Boston Foundation and NewSchools Venture Fund, reviewed longitudinal student data, in some cases over an eight-year period, and compared student results in public charter high schools to those in traditional public high schools in Boston. Rather than focusing just on state assessments, the study also examined several college-readiness indicators, including SAT and AP participation rates and scores, graduation rates and two- and four-year college enrollment rates.

“Because of the age of charter schools in Boston, it is now possible to examine the long-run effects of attending a charter high school in Boston,” said Parag Pathak, co-author of the study and Associate Professor of Economics at MIT. “Our results suggest that attending a charter high school increases the rates at which students pass the MCAS, boosts students’ SAT scores and AP participation rates, and, perhaps most strikingly, raises the likelihood that they will attend a four-year college.”

Results from the study include:

  •     Outperformance on state assessments. Charter school students were 16 percent more likely to meet the competency standards of the MCAS, required for graduation, on their first try. Charter school students were also 18 percent more likely to qualify for an Adams Scholarship, which uses MCAS scores in its criteria for awarding free tuition to a Massachusetts public college or university.
  •     Outperformance on the SAT. While charter school students were not significantly more likely to take the SAT than their district peers, attending a charter raised a student’s composite SAT score by more than 100 points.
  •     Outperformance on AP exams. Charter school students were far more likely to take AP tests than their district peers, with more than half of charter students taking at least one AP test, compared with about a quarter of students in district public schools.
  •     Greater probability of four-year college enrollment. Charter attendance increased the probability of enrolling in a four-year college within two years of graduation by 23 percent.

Notably, the study also controlled for numerous possible variables, including:

  •     Applicant self-selection, by studying only the academic results of students attending charter schools compared to those who also applied to attend charter schools via randomized lottery but did not get a spot, all self-selectors.
  •     Demographics, as applicants who got charter offers were demographically similar to those who did not. Charter seats in Massachusetts are randomly assigned when demand exceeds supply, making special education and Limited English Proficiency populations just as likely in both comparison groups. The study found that attending a Boston charter school “markedly” increases the rate at which special education students meet state competency exams.
  •     Selective retention, by counting the achievement of students who attended a charter school for as little as one day among charter students in the results.
  •     Funding, as the charter schools included in the study received slightly less per-pupil funding than traditional public schools.
  •     “Teaching to the test,” by finding consistent charter school outperformance on non-assessment indicators like college choice and college enrollment.

"By tracking students who both ‘won’ and ‘lost’ charter school enrollment lotteries and by focusing on indicators of college readiness, the MIT team was able to conduct an unbiased analysis of charter school performance," said Jim Peyser, a Managing Partner with NewSchools Venture Fund. "This study is a breakthrough in the evaluation of charter school effectiveness, and it confirms that the Match model deserves great credit for preparing students for college and improving their life trajectories. It’s a model from which public schools around the country can learn.”

  •     100 percent of Match students scored proficient or higher on both the math and ELA portions of the MCAS (2011-12 data).
  •     Match student demographics are highly similar to those of students in traditional Boston Public Schools on all attributes for which data is available, including special education and Limited English Proficiency.
  •     Over 90 percent of Match juniors and seniors take at least one AP test and at least one college-level course at Boston University.
  •     Match sends 85 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges, with an additional nine percent attending two-year colleges.

About Match Education

Match Education is an engine of innovation in public education. Match operates high-performing urban public charter schools for low-income and minority children and a unique graduate school of education that trains teachers for urban settings. Out of its applied work in schools and teacher training, Match originates, proves and shares solutions to core problems in education reform. Match seeks to contribute to national education reform, not by expanding the size of its school network and teacher training program, but by being a source of proven new ideas and practices that can be adopted by school systems, policy makers and other stakeholders. To date, Match has partnered with the Houston Independent School District, the Lawrence Public School District (MA) and Chicago Public Schools to implement the Match Tutoring model into a traditional public school setting.

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Ida Linden
Match Education
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