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Are High Quality Schools Enough to Close the Achievement Gap? Evidence from a Social Experiment in Harlem

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  • Will Dobbie
  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr

Abstract

Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), which combines community investments with reform minded charter schools, is one of the most ambitious social experiments to alleviate poverty of our time. We provide the first empirical test of the causal impact of HCZ on educational outcomes, with an eye toward informing the long-standing debate whether schools alone can eliminate the achievement gap or whether the issues that poor children bring to school are too much for educators alone to overcome. Both lottery and instrumental variable identification strategies lead us to the same story: Harlem Children’s Zone is effective at increasing the achievement of the poorest minority children. Taken at face value, the effects in middle school are enough to close the black-white achievement gap in mathematics and reduce it by nearly half in English Language Arts. The effects in elementary school close the racial achievement gap in both subjects. We conclude by presenting four pieces of evidence that high-quality schools or high-quality schools coupled with community investments generate the achievement gains. Community investments alone cannot explain the results.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15473.

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Date of creation: Nov 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15473

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Cited by:
  1. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2010. "Racial Inequality in the 21st Century: The Declining Significance of Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 16256, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John List & Imran Rasul, 2010. "Field experiments in labor economics," Artefactual Field Experiments 00092, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2010. "Inputs and Impacts in Charter Schools: KIPP Lynn," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 239-43, May.
  4. Robert Metcalfe & Simon Burgess & Steven Proud, 2011. "Student effort and educational attainment: Using the England football team to identify the education production function," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 11/276, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  5. Stephen Machin & Olmo Silva, 2013. "School Structure, School Autonomy and the Tail," CEP Special Papers 29, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  6. Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson, 2012. "Heterogeneity in High Math Achievement Across Schools: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions," NBER Working Papers 18277, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Pierre Lefebvre & Philip Merrigan, 2010. "Gender Gap in Dropping out of High School: Evidence from the Canadian NLSCY Youth," Cahiers de recherche 1044, CIRPEE.

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