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Student Outcomes and Charter Schools in New Mexico


  • New Mexico needs state-specific data on students’ performance in charter and dual language schools.
  • Abt led a two-year impact and implementation study working with partners.
  • Results were released in spring of 2021.
The Challenge

Prior studies of charter schools have focused on different types of charter schools than those in New Mexico. For example, many prior research studies elsewhere have focused on charters in urban and suburban areas or on charters run by charter management organizations (CMOs). New Mexico’s charter schools are often in rural areas, and the state does not have any charter schools run by CMOs; instead, charter schools in New Mexico are grass roots institutions run by independent governing councils.

The Approach

Abt  led a two-year randomized controlled study comparing outcomes for students who were offered admission in New Mexico’s charter schools and those who were not. The study has a special focus on New Mexico charter schools offering “dual language immersion,” in which students are taught in two languages. The study also investigated the effectiveness of the state’s elementary and secondary school charters more broadly.

The Results

Charter schools serve fewer economically disadvantaged students and more White students compared to all public schools in New Mexico. Our most rigorous analysis, a lottery study, found no statistically significant impacts on measured student academic outcomes for elementary-aged and middle school-aged students, nor on college enrollment for high school-aged students. Our less rigorous analysis, a quasi-experimental study, had mixed results, suggesting high school charters increased college enrollment and elementary charters reduced mathematics achievement.