CHARTER SCHOOLS -NEW YORK STUDY LOOKS AT WHAT WORKS
Class Size less important than teacher feedback and use of data for improving effectiveness
According to a Harvard University paper on New York Charter schools- Getting Beneath the Veil of Eﬀective Schools: Evidence from New York City (November 2011)- evidence on the eﬃcacy of market-based reforms, such as school choice or school vouchers on the one hand and reforms seeking to manipulate key educational inputs on the other, have, at best, had a modest impact on student achievement . Indeed, the data suggest that increasing resource-based inputs may actually lower school eﬀectiveness.
The authors look in detail at 35 New York Charter schools. Charters were created in the USA to, firstly, serve as an escape hatch for students in failing schools, so most are in disadvantaged areas, and, secondly to use their relative freedom to incubate best practices to be infused into traditional public schools.
Consistent with the second mission, charter schools employ a wide variety of educational strategies and operations, providing dramatic variability in school inputs.
This paper collects data on the inner-workings charter schools and correlate these data with credible estimates of each school’s eﬀectiveness.
The authors ﬁnd that traditionally collected input measures – class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certiﬁcation, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree – are not correlated with school eﬀectiveness. In stark contrast, they show that an index of ﬁve policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research – frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations – explains approximately 50 percent of the variation in school eﬀectiveness. The results, they claim, are robust to controls for three alternative theories of schooling: a model emphasizing the provision of wrap-around services, a model focused on teacher selection and retention, and the “No Excuses” model of education. They conclude by showing that ‘ our index provides similar results in a separate sample of charter schools. Moreover, we show that these variables continue to be statistically important after accounting for alternative models of schooling, and a host of other explanatory variables, and are predictive in a diﬀerent sample of schools.’
The authors state ‘While there are important caveats to the conclusion that these ﬁve policies can explain signiﬁcant variation in school eﬀectiveness, our results suggest a model of schooling that may have general application. The key next step is to inject these strategies into traditional public schools and assess whether they have a causal eﬀect on student achievement.
Getting Beneath the Veil of Eﬀective Schools: Evidence from New York City
Will Dobbie; Harvard University; Roland G. Fryer, Jr.; Harvard University and NBER