II. Walking Through Low Effect Size and High Effect Size Schools
The famous Anna Karena quote goes something like this: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
I think the opposite is true of schools.
When I visit low effect size schools, I am often saddened by the level of dysfunction. Students walk the halls aimlessly, teachers seem woefully unprepared for working in a low-income environment, and the principal generally spends her day putting out fires.
When I visit high effect size schools, I’m often struck by how different they are. While most hit the basics of a calm culture and thoughtful instruction, they vary greatly in atmosphere, curriculum, and staffing models – as well as the overall student experience. A Summit school is very different than a Collegiate Academies school, despite both achieving high effects. Even No Excuses schools can feel fairly different from each other, though the do tend to gravitate around some core practices (that Fryer has helped illuminate).
I also think I would struggle mightily in a blind walk through of .1 and .2 effect size schools; it is highly unlikely I would be able to tell you which school has which effect.
So while it’s easy to identify schools that are a total mess, it’s a little difficult to tease out what’s going well in non-dysfuctional schools, as well as to distinguish between high-performing and very-high-performing schools.