NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

Will Dobbie, Roland G. Fryer, Jr

NBER Working Paper No. 17632
Issued in December 2011
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17632

Published: 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.

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