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Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City

  • Will Dobbie
  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17632.

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Date of creation: Dec 2011
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Publication status: published as Dobbie, Will, and Roland G. Fryer. 2013. "Getting beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 5(4): 28-60.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17632
Note: ED LS
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  1. Angrist, Joshua & Pathak, Parag A. & Walters, Christopher R., 2012. "Explaining Charter School Effectiveness," IZA Discussion Papers 6525, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Couch, Jim F & Shughart, William F, II & Williams, Al L, 1993. " Private School Enrollment and Public School Performance," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 76(4), pages 301-12, August.
  3. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2011. "Injecting Successful Charter School Strategies into Traditional Public Schools: A Field Experiment in Houston," NBER Working Papers 17494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Hsieh, Chang-Tai & Urquiola, Miguel, 2006. "The effects of generalized school choice on achievement and stratification: Evidence from Chile's voucher program," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1477-1503, September.
  5. Vilsa E. Curto & Roland G. Fryer, Jr., 2011. "Estimating the Returns to Urban Boarding Schools: Evidence from SEED," NBER Working Papers 16746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
  7. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2007. "Can increasing private school participation and monetary loss in a voucher program affect public school performance? Evidence from Milwaukee," Staff Reports 300, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  8. Daniel Aaronson & Lisa Barrow & William Sander, 2007. "Teachers and Student Achievement in the Chicago Public High Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 95-135.
  9. David Card & Martin Dooley & Abigail Payne, 2008. "School Competition and Efficiency with Publicly Funded Catholic Schools," NBER Working Papers 14176, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Jonah E. Rockoff & Brian A. Jacob & Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2011. "Can You Recognize an Effective Teacher When You Recruit One?," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 6(1), pages 43-74, January.
  11. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak, 2011. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters And Pilots," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 699-748.
  12. Christopher Jepsen, 2003. "The Effectiveness of Catholic Primary Schooling," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(4).
  13. Jesse Rothstein, 2007. "Does Competition Among Public Schools Benefit Students and Taxpayers? Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 2026-2037, December.
  14. Joseph G. Altonji & Thomas A. Dunn, 1995. "The Effects of School and Family Characteristics on the Return to Education," NBER Working Papers 5072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. David J. Deming & Justine S. Hastings & Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2011. "School Choice, School Quality and Postsecondary Attainment," NBER Working Papers 17438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Borland, Melvin V. & Howsen, Roy M, 1992. "Student academic achievement and the degree of market concentration in education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 31-39, March.
  17. Angrist, Joshua & Dynarski, Susan & Kane, Thomas J. & Pathak, Parag A. & Walters, Christopher R., 2011. "Who Benefits from KIPP?," IZA Discussion Papers 5690, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  18. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 1994. "Do Private Schools Provide Competition for Public Schools?," NBER Working Papers 4978, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Christopher R. Geller & David L. Sjoquist & Mary Beth Walker, 2006. "The Effect of Private School Competition on Public School Performance in Georgia," Public Finance Review, , vol. 34(1), pages 4-32, January.
  20. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2008. "Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 14607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Caroline M. Hoxby & Sonali Murarka, 2009. "Charter Schools in New York City: Who Enrolls and How They Affect Their Students' Achievement," NBER Working Papers 14852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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