Giving Compass' Take:
- Research from Boston Charter schools indicates that pushing civics education and mastery over multiple democratic skills can increase student voting participation.
- Why is it critical to push youth voting? How can donors support robust civics education?
- Read more about youth civic engagement.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Charter schools in Boston, considered some of the strongest in the country, improve voter participation as well as academic outcomes like standardized test scores, according to a recently released study. The effects are significant in size and may be attributable to charters’ success in inculcating noncognitive skills, the authors find. But they are also driven entirely by gains among female students.
The study, circulated as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, represents the latest evidence pointing to some charters as institutions that strengthen civic engagement. A paper published last year that focused on North Carolina schools found lasting benefits to traditionally underserved students, including more frequent voting and reduced criminality, who attended a charter secondary school rather than a traditional public school.
And both echo the findings of a separate analysis of the civics-focused Democracy Prep charter schools. Graduates of the network, which operates over 20 schools across five states, were 12 percentage points more likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election than similar students, according to that study, and substantially more likely to be registered as voters.
Sarah Cohodes, an economist at Columbia University’s Teachers College and a co-author of the Boston paper, noted that the voting effects she found were about half as large as those generated by Democracy Prep — six percentage points of increased voting likelihood, from a status quo of 35 percent — and that she measured no impact on registration. But a network like Democracy Prep, which persistently emphasizes civic participation and demands that students demonstrate mastery over multiple democratic skills, might be expected to lift voter participation, Cohodes added.
“This [research] is showing that even if you have a school where civics isn’t the mission, but you are still instilling more general skills — executive function, conscientiousness — alongside academic skills, that spills over into voting,” she said.
Read the full article about student voting by Kevin Mahnken at The 74.