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Job market paper

The Effects of Charter Schools on Traditional Public School Students in North Carolina

National support and growth of school choice has raised concerns about disadvantaged students left behind. The recent shift in North Carolina (NC) charter schools to serving higher-achieving students supports this concern, but the effect on those left in traditional public schools is unclear. Using panel data covering all public school students in NC from 1997 to 2016, I examine charter effects on traditional public school student test scores, and how effects vary by the relative achievement of schools. I control for time-invariant determinants of selection and trends using student-school spell effects and linear school trends, and show evidence that remaining time-varying determinants do not bias effects. Results show competition from higher-achieving charters has small positive effects and does not increase achievement gaps for disadvantaged students in traditional public schools. Lower-achieving charter competition has zero to small negative effects and increases achievement gaps for some disadvantaged populations. This suggests that the growth of higher-achieving charters does not negatively affect student achievement or disadvantaged students left behind, and may even be beneficial.