What Makes a School Successful?

edlabs_logo_0In what seems to be an increasing (and welcome!) trend, Harvard economist Dr. Roland G. Fryer Jr. has been attempting to translate his empirical research into results for schools. Dr. Fryer won the prestigious John Bates Clark medal this year in part for his research on 39 New York City charter schools. He hoped to isolate important factors that allowed certain schools to reach higher levels of student achievement. He targeted charter schools because he knew he would be able to research more diverse school environments and educational tactics than if he were to research more standardized public schools.

In looking at charter schools that focused their energy on high levels of accountability (schools that adhere to the so-called “broken windows theory”), he found five key factors that drove success:

  1. frequent teacher feedback
  2. the use of data to guide instruction
  3. frequent and high-quality tutoring
  4. extended school day and year
  5. a culture of high expectations

He then moved on to attempting to “scale up” these findings in 20 low performing public schools in Houston, Texas. The results, by his own admission, were mixed. Dr. Fryer acknowledges that more work needs to be done to study the differences between public and charter schools so that more effective “scale ups” can take place.

For his empirical and practical approach, Dr. Fryer has received accolades from the academic economics community. This is certainly a change from the past when economists were expected to do mainly theoretical work. Hopefully, this trend will allow more academic high fliers to throw their hat in the education reform ring.

For more information, please visit: http://www.newsweek.com/what-makes-school-successful-327339