Research from David J. Deming, Justine S. Hastings, Thomas J. Kane, and Douglas O. Staiger on the impact of charter schools beyond test scores (black market copy here if you don’t have access to NBER papers):
We study the impact of a public school choice lottery in Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) on postsecondary attainment. We match CMS administrative records to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), a nationwide database of college enrollment. Among applicants with low-quality neighborhood schools, lottery winners are more likely than lottery losers to graduate from high school, attend a four-year college, and earn a bachelor’s degree. They are twice as likely to earn a degree from an elite university. The results suggest that school choice can improve students’ longer-term life chances when they gain access to schools that are better on observed dimensions of quality.
Note that this is consistent with charter skeptics’ favorite research finding that, on average, public charter schools are about the same as traditional public schools. Many schools and school districts are above average. If kids with low-quality neighborhood schools are able to attend charter schools that are about as good on average as average public schools, then those kids are going to see huge benefits. By the same token, you wouldn’t expect there to be a ton of interest in launching charter schools in districts whose traditional public schools are of above-average quality.