I recently went to a conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia on urban issues. The most interesting presentation was on urban schools. The speaker, Will Dobbie, pointed out that the average charter school was no better than the average public school, but that the very best charter schools in high-poverty areas massively improved test scores for low-income children. What’s the difference between the best schools and the rest?
Dobbie found that the most successful charter schools devoted more days and hours on instruction, spent more hours tutoring weak students, and provided more feedback on test results to parents and teachers. By contrast, other common charter school strategies, such as smaller classes, higher overall spending, and more highly-credentialed teachers, were not associated with high test scores. (Dobbie’s paper can be found here.)
In other words, money matters - but only if it is spent on the right policies.
Michael Lewyn is an associate professor at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, NY. His scholarship can be found at http://works.bepress.com/lewyn , and he recently wrote the book "Government Intervention and Suburban Sprawl: The Case for Market Urbanism."
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