University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

The Michigan Charter School Research Project

NOTE: The Michigan Charter School Research Project was originally launched as part of the Education Policy Initiative (EPI) at CLOSUP, but EPI is now operating as a stand-alone initiative within the Ford School. For current information on EPI, see the current EPI website. For current information on the Michigan Charter School Research Project, see the current project website at Otherwise, information regarding the project below, and other information regarding EPI on CLOSUP's website is for archival purposes only, intended to document EPI's startup phase when it was housed within CLOSUP.

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What Is The Michigan Charter School Research Project?

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan 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 Participate?

In order to paint an accurate picture of charter schools in Michigan, we hope to include all charter schools in the state. To ensure this, we are personally reaching out to every charter school in Michigan. We are also collaborating with charter school authorizers and education service providers to guarantee cooperation and representation of all stakeholders.

What Is The Project Timeline?

This is a two-year project divided into three phases: data collection, data analysis, and results. Data collection will run from Summer 2011 through Summer 2012 followed by data analysis from Summer 2012 through Spring 2013. We expect to present the results in Fall 2013.

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
Susan Dynarski, Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Michigan, is an economist who studies and teaches the economics of education and quantitative methods for program evaluation. She is a Faculty Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and has been a Visiting Fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Princeton University. She is an editor of The Journal of Labor Economics and Education Finance and Policy. Dynarski's current research focuses on the impact of charter schools on academic achievement, the elasticity of private school attendance with respect to price, historical trends in inequality in educational attainment, and the optimal design of financial aid. Her previous research explored the impact of grants and loans on college attendance, the impact of state policy on college completion, and the distributional consequences of tax incentives for college saving.

Brian Jacob, Co-Principal Investigator
Brian Jacob is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy, Professor of Economics, and Director of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He is a Faculty Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an Executive Committee Member of the National Poverty Center. His current research focuses on urban school reform and teacher labor markets; other recent work examines school choice, education accountability programs, and housing vouchers. Jacob has extensive analytic experience using regression discontinuity methodology, and has also has studied high school graduation requirements.

Mahima Mahadevan, Project Manager
Mahima Mahadevan holds a Master of Public Policy from Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer having served two years in the Kyrgyz Republic as an English Teacher. Her prior work experience includes being the Donor Coordinator at Alternatives For Girls in Detroit, interning at The Imagine Fund in Lansing, and teaching English in Guadalajara, Mexico.

How To Learn More

Please contact Mahima Mahadevan, Project Manager of the Michigan Charter School Research Project, at (734) 506-8256 or for further information.

Links To Additional Resources
735 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI. 48109-3091  | 
ph: 734-647-4091  | 
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