Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City (Working Paper)

A working paper by Harvard University's Ronald G. Fryer, Jr and Will Dobbie

Author's Abstract
Charter schools were developed, in part, to serve as an R&D engine for traditional public schools, resulting in a wide variety of school strategies and outcomes. In this paper, we collect unparalleled data on the inner-workings of 35 charter schools and correlate these data with credible estimates of each school’s effectiveness. We 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, we 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. Our results 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. We conclude by showing that our index provides similar results in a separate sample of charter schools.

Type: 
Report
Issues & Research
Topic: 
Achievement & Testing
Innovation & Best Practices