How do we tell if a school is successful? Conventional wisdom says to look at measures like class size and per pupil spending. But according to newly-published research from Harvard, those traditional models don’t really tell us much at all.

The researchers studied 35 charter schools in New York, looking for measures to assess a school’s effectiveness. After finding out that the resource-based models (per-pupil spending, class size, and proportion of teachers with advanced degrees) didn’t correlate with school effectiveness, they tried to figure out what factors were meaningful. The surprising answer? “Frequent teacher feedback, data driven instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and a relentless focus on academic achievement explains almost half the variation in school effectiveness,” the authors write.

Of course, high-dosage tutoring doesn’t come cheap, and many struggling school systems don’t have the resources to implement a program like the one the Harvard profs recommend here. Still, if this data holds true, Baltimore City school’s new Saturday School plan sounds like a step in the right direction. How would you reform schools?

One reply on “What’s Wrong with Schools (Hint: It’s Not Class Size)”

  1. Nice concept, but it seems like all the private schools in Baltimore pride themselves on small class sizes. Why don’t we start our experiment in efficiency with rich people for a change? Ha!

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