Estimating the Effects of a Large For-Profit Charter School Operator
In this paper, we leverage randomized admissions lotteries to estimate the impact of attending a National Heritage Academy (NHA) charter school. NHA is the fourth largest for-profit charter operator in the country, enrolling more than 56,000 students in 86 schools across 9 states. Unlike several of the other large for-profit companies that operate virtual charters, NHA only has standard bricks-and-mortar schools. Our estimates indicate that attending a NHA charter school for one additional year is associated with a 0.04 standard deviation increase in math achievement. Effects on other outcomes are smaller and not statistically significant. In contrast to most prior charter school research that finds the largest benefits for low-income, underrepresented minorities in urban areas, the benefits of attending an NHA charter network are concentrated among non-poor students attending charter schools outside urban areas. Using data from a survey of school administrators in traditional public and charter schools, we document several aspects of school organization, culture and instructional practice that might explain these positive effects.