“Explaining charter school effectiveness” is the title of newly published work by Angrist, Pathak, and Walters. The general evidence on charter schools is that on average they’re neither better nor worse than other public schools. What A., P., & W. do is break down charter schools according to the circumstances in which they operate. Turns out that some charter schools are effective while others are not, and that there are predictable patterns about when charter schools work.
Some of the findings in the authors’ words.
…urban charter schools boost achievement well beyond that of traditional urban public schools, while nonurban charters reduce achievement from a higher baseline.
The relative efficacy of urban …charters is accounted for by these schools’ embrace of the No Excuses approach…Non-No-Excuses urban charters are no more effective than nonurban charters.
The authors go further and ask which practices are most correlated with a school’s success. They carefully explain that separating out whether a specific practice is causal is dicey, so the practices correlated with success may be symbols of something else. With that caveat the two practices most correlated with school success are
- Emphasize discipline and comportment.
- Require school uniforms.