On the heels of news that high school graduates may not be prepared for college, comes more evidence that school choice helps students succeed and graduate from high school. A new study finds that students attending charter high schools in Florida and Chicago have an increased likelihood of successful high-school completion and college enrollment compared to their traditional public high school counterparts. While there have been numerous studies on charter school achievement, this is the first analysis of charter school impacts on educational attainment (See 40 sec.)

Compared to their traditional public high school counterparts with similar characteristics, Chicago charter high school students were 7 percentage points more likely to earn a regular high school diploma; while Florida charter high school students were 15 percentage points more likely to do so. Chicago and Florida 8th graders who attended charter schools and also attended a charter high school in 9th grade are 8 to 10 percentage points more likely to attend college than similar students who attended a traditional public high school. Study authors note that those results resemble studies showing that attending a Catholic high school boosts the likelihood of high school graduation and college attendance by 10 to 18 percentage points.

“Developing a high school model suited to the 21st-century student has been the Holy Grail of education reform in recent years,” explain study authors, who add,  “While just a first step, the results presented here and in the Catholic-school literature suggest that school-choice programs that include alternatives to traditional public high schools may reduce high-school dropout rates and promote college attendance.”