Charter Schools: A Proving Ground for Success?

May 19, 2021
Stock image: Generic charter school with American flag. From Getty.

For many teachers, it appears, working in charter schools has become a “try before you buy” system for deciding whether to become certified. This is according to recent analysis by Michigan State University Professor Scott Imberman and colleagues.

“We investigated whether charter schools are able to use their more flexible employment regulations to hold onto their higher performing teachers and remove their low performers. In fact, what we find is that charters tend to lose both their lowest performing and highest performing teachers,” Imberman said. 

The research, based on teacher quality and employment data from nearly 1,400 traditional and charter schools in Massachusetts, found that the lowest performing charter school teachers tend to leave the profession. The high performers, on the other hand, tend to switch to better paying jobs in traditional public schools, where certification is required.

About 20 percent of teachers in the state’s charter schools do not have a license.

“Charter schools tend to hire unlicensed teachers who are ineligible to teach in the public sector,” the authors write. This creates an “alternative pathway” into the workforce, allowing new educators to explore the role before investing time and money to obtain licensure. 

It’s a potential way for charters to increase the pipeline of effective teachers, while also benefiting traditional public schools—and the students in them. 

Imberman’s co-authors were Jesse M. Bruhn and Marcus A. Winters.


“Regulatory Arbitrage in Teacher Hiring and Retention: Evidence from Massachusetts Charter Schools,” National Bureau of Economic Research, 2020.