The Michigan Charter School Research Project


The Education Policy Initiative at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy is coordinating a rigorous, Michigan-wide analysis of the effect of charter schools on student performance and postsecondary schooling decisions, including college entry, choice and completion. This project is led by Professors Susan Dynarski and Brian Jacob, Ford School faculty with over 25 years combined experience coordinating large-scale education policy research and over 60 combined publications in the field of education.

Why is this Project being Implemented?

A number of prior studies have examined various issues surrounding charter schools in Michigan. This project will extend the prior work in several important ways. First, it will examine the full set of charter schools in Michigan through the 2011-2012 school year. Second, it will not only examine how charter schools influence student achievement and high school graduation, but also how they impact postsecondary enrollment and completion. Third, the project will utilize the randomized lotteries that over-subscribed charter schools use to admit students in order to more accurately assess the true impact of charter schools. This approach has been used successfully in Boston, New York City, Chicago and the state of Massachusetts to determine the effect of charter schools on student achievement. In both Boston and Massachusetts, Dynarski's research showed large, positive effects of charter schools on students' test scores. Finally, this project will seek to identify current charter school practices associated with success since little research in this area exists.

Who will Benefit from this Project?

This is the first comprehensive analysis of all Michigan charter schools using the randomized lottery design, with the potential to influence decision-making at the school, district and state level. The charter schools will greatly benefit from participating in this project, since each school can receive a personalized report comparing its students on a variety of outcomes, including postsecondary, to students who applied but did not win access to its school. Charter school authorizers, education service providers and state officials will be the beneficiaries of cost-free, rigorous evaluations of all the schools. Finally, all stakeholders will benefit from a better understanding of the specific practices that distinguish the most from the least effective charter schools.

Who is on the Project Team?

Susan Dynarski, co-principal investigator
Brian Jacob, co-principal investigator
Silvia Robles, postdoctoral fellow
Daniel Hubbard, graduate student research assistant