Charter schools do more than teach to the test: evidence from Boston


A growing body of evidence indicates that many urban charter schools boost the standardized test scores of disadvantaged students markedly. Attendance at oversubscribed charter schools in Boston for example—those with more applicants than seats—increases the test scores of low-income students by a third of a standard deviation a year, enough to eliminate the black-white test score gap in a few years of attendance.
 The achievement gains generated by Boston charters are in line with those generated by urban charters elsewhere in Massachusetts, as we have shown in studies of a Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) school in Lynn, Massachusetts and in an analysis of charter lottery results from around the state. Similar effects have been found in New York City and in a nationwide study of oversubscribed urban charter schools.
 A defining feature of most of Massachusetts’ urban charter schools is No Excuses pedagogy, an approach to urban education described in a book of the same name. No Excuses schools emphasize discipline and student conduct, traditional reading and math skills, extended instruction time, and selective teacher hiring. Massachusetts’ No Excuses charters also make heavy use of Teach for America corps members and alumni, and they provide extensive and ongoing feedback to teachers.