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charter schools, academic achievement, urban schools


While charter schools differ widely in philosophy and pedagogical views, the United States’s most famous urban charter schools typically use the No Excuses approach. Enrolling mainly poor and minority students, these schools feature high academic standards, strict disciplinary codes, extended instructional time, and targeted supports for low-performing students. The strenuous and regimented style is controversial amongst some scholars, but others contend that the No Excuses approach is needed to rapidly close the achievement gap. We conduct the first meta-analysis of the achievement impacts of No Excuses charter schools. Focusing on experimental studies, we find that No Excuses charter schools significantly improve math scores and reading scores. We estimate gains of 0.25 and 0.16 standard deviations on math and literacy achievement, respectively, as the effect of attending a No Excuses charter school for one year. Though the effect is large and meaningful, we offer some caveats to this finding and discuss policy implications for the United States as well as other countries.


EDRE Working Paper 2014-11