Harvard economist (and Freakonomics friend) Roland Fryer has a new paper out (full version here) that takes a look at the specific successful habits of charter schools. Along with co-author Will Dobbie, Fryer collected “unparalleled data” on 35 elementary and middle charter schools in New York City by conducting extensive interviews and videotaping classrooms.
Their results are fairly counter-intuitive. They showed that traditional solutions like class size, per-pupil expenditure, and the number of teachers with advanced degrees are not correlated with effectiveness, and in fact, “resource-based solutions” actually lowered school effectiveness.
Instead, they found five qualities that made up about 50 percent of a charter school’s effectiveness. These are:
1. Frequent teacher feedback
2. Data driven instruction
3. High-dosage tutoring
4. Increased instructional time
5. Relentless focus on academic achievement.
For example, a high-achieving charter middle-school teacher gets feedback 13.42 times per semester, versus 6.35 times at other charter schools. Similarly, high achieving middle-schools test their students 4 times per semester, compared to 2.4 at other schools.
Perhaps even more interesting, these qualities remained paramount to a successful charter school despite different styles of environment, such as “Whole Child,” “No Excuses” (like KIPP), and teacher-retention.