Cognitive skills predict academic performance, so schools that improve academic performance might also improve cognitive skills. To investigate the impact schools have on both academic performance and cognitive skills, an earlier study http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/3/736.full.pdf+html related standardized achievement-test scores to measures of cognitive skills in a large sample (N = 1,367) of eighth-grade students attending traditional, exam, and charter public schools.
Test scores and gains in test scores over time correlated with measures of cognitive skills.
Despite wide variation in test scores across schools, differences in cognitive skills across schools were negligible after we controlled for fourth-grade test scores. Random offers of enrollment to oversubscribed charter schools resulted in positive impacts of such school attendance on math achievement but had no impact on cognitive skills.
These findings suggest that schools that improve standardized achievement-test scores do so primarily through channels other than improving cognitive skills.