Groundbreaking U-M study: NHA charter schools produce "substantial gains in student achievement"

Buddy Moorehouse
Apr 5, 2018 9:30:00 AM

LANSING, Michigan – A new research study from the University of Michigan shows that students enrolled in a charter school managed by National Heritage Academies (NHA) – Michigan’s largest charter school operator – learn substantially more than students in traditional public schools, particularly in math. NHA is a for-profit educational-services provider based in Grand Rapids that manages 48 of Michigan’s 295 charter schools.

The report is titled “Estimating the Effects of a Large Network of Charter Schools Managed by a For-profit Operator,” and was conducted over the course of several years by U-M researchers Susan Dynarski, Daniel Hubbard, Brian Jacob and Silvia Robles. The researchers looked at students who were selected by lottery to attend an NHA school from 2003-2012, and monitored their learning progress over the years.

The findings of the study are being reported this week by several news outlets, including The 74 and Education Week.

The 74 reported in its story, “One of the largest for-profit charter school networks in the country, National Heritage Academies, produces substantial gains in student achievement compared to traditional public schools in Michigan, according to a major new study circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research … Students at the 48 Michigan NHA charters — most serving grades K-8 — tend to perform better in math than those at nearby traditional public schools.”

The 74 then quotes from the report: “Consistent with prior lottery-based charter studies, we find that an additional year spent at an NHA charter is causally associated with positive test score gains in math, with smaller effects on reading scores,” they write.

The highly regarded education blog Education Week reported, “Findings from a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy are intriguing precisely because they run counter to other research and the general narrative that’s developed around for-profit charter operators.”

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