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The Graduate School will recognize 22 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate students, alumni in the spring for research benefiting North Carolina and beyond

View the 17 Impact Awards and 5 Horizon Awards for 2018.


The Graduate School is planning a celebration – a Graduate Student Recognition Celebration, to be exact – on April 5 to honor the many contributions of graduate and professional students. Each year, The Graduate School sponsors this event, where hundreds of students campus-wide are recognized for their achievement.

Among the honorees will be recipients of the 2018 Impact Awards and Horizon Awards, sponsored by The Graduate School to recognize research benefiting North Carolina now (Impact) and in the future (Horizon).

We’ll share stories and photography of each of the 22 awardees for 2018 later in the spring. For now, though, we’d like for you to meet Joshua Horvath, who is examining the effects of charter schools on traditional public schools. Horvath is receiving a 2018 Impact Award for his outstanding research.

Charter schools are privately run public schools with open enrollment policies. Compared to traditional public schools, public charter schools have more flexibility in hiring, curriculum and use of funding.

Joshua Horvath
Joshua Horvath

Proponents of charters say increased competition benefits traditional public school productivity, encouraging these schools to reallocate resources to increase efficiency and professional development for teachers. Opponents say competition from charters may drain resources and talent from traditional public schools, with implications for meeting state or federal standards.

Using administrative data covering all N.C. public school students from 1997 to 2016, economics doctoral student Joshua Horvath examined a specific issue related to the competition: the effects of charter schools on traditional public school student math and reading test scores.

N.C. House Bill 955, authorizing the establishment of charter schools, was ratified in 1996. Horvath analyzed competitive effects from 1997 to 2016 and how effects depend on the relative achievement of charter and traditional public schools. For the purposes of his study, a traditional public school was defined as competing with a charter school if traditional school students switched to a charter when they could have continued at the traditional school.

“Josh’s research is directly relevant to the debate around the funding and expansion of charter schools in North Carolina,” said adviser Jane Cooley Fruehwirth, Ph.D.

His findings indicate that, on average, charter schools have no effect on math test scores and a small positive effect on reading test scores. Competition from higher-achieving charter schools has a small positive effect on students in traditional public schools, while lower-achieving competition has zero to very small negative effects.

Horvath’s research suggests that, at the least, students in traditional public schools are not hurt by – and may benefit from – competition with higher-achieving charter schools. His ongoing analysis has implications for leaders who are determining policies for all public schools.

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