Quick takes – July 11, 2012

by Grace

How Berkeley makes admissions decisions – the 2005 Hout report

… an in-depth quantitative analysis of the University of California, Berkeley, freshman admissions process confirms that the process is working as intended with academic considerations carrying the most weight in virtually all admissions decisions….

In his report, Hout wrote, “My statistical results reveal that comprehensive review conformed to most aspects of policy guidelines. Academic considerations predominated. Readers gave applicants’ grades the most weight in assigning read scores. They also considered how difficult the courses were and scores on SATs. Readers also fulfilled the policy guidelines that instruct them to consider applicants in their local context by giving some weight (less than the weight they gave to academics) to the barriers to achievement that some applicants face.”


A recent report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforc
says that certificates are the “fastest-growing postsecondary credential awarded” and have demonstrated “increasing clout … in the labor market”.

Randomized control trials show  “students in urban areas do significantly better in school if they attend a charter schools than if they attend a traditional public school.

According to the Global Report Card, more than a third of the 30 school districts with the highest math achievement in the United States are actually charter schools.  This is particularly impressive considering thatcharters constitute about 5% of all schools and about 3% of all public school students.  And it is even more amazing considering that some of the highest performing charter schools, like Roxbury Prep in Boston or KIPP Infinity in New York City, serve very disadvantaged students.

As impressive and amazing as these results by charter schools may be, it would be wrong to conclude from this that charter schools improve student achievement.  The only way to know with confidence whether charters cause better outcomes is to look at randomized control trials (RCTs) in which students are assigned by lottery to attending a charter school or a traditional public school.  RCTs are like medical experiments where some subjects by chance get the treatment and others by chance do not.  Since the two groups are on average identical, any difference observed in later outcomes can be attributed to the “treatment,” and not to some pre-existing and uncontrolled difference.  We demand this type of evidence before we approve any drug, but the evidence used to justify how our children are educated is usually nowhere near as rigorous.

Happily, we have four RCTs on the effects of charter schools that allow us to know something about the effects of charter schools with high confidence.  Here is what we know:  students in urban areas do significantly better in school if they attend a charter schools than if they attend a traditional public school.  These academic benefits of urban charter schools are quite large.  In Boston, a team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, Duke, and the University of Michigan, conducted a RCT and found:  “The charter school effects reported here are therefore large enough to reduce the black-white reading gap in middle school by two-thirds.”

Has NCLB been “essentially nullified”?

‘No Child’ Law Whittled Down by White House as more states receive waivers.

Thinking ahead – A “couple of extra weeks in the womb” might raise SAT scores?

On both reading and math exams, where a score of 50 was considered average, kids born at 41 weeks scored about one point higher, in general, than those born at 37 weeks, the researchers reported Monday in Pediatrics….

Noble said the finding doesn’t prove being born early-term can slow kids’ brain development and hurt their academic achievement. It’s possible, she said, that some other factor is related to both early births and academic difficulties.


2 Comments to “Quick takes – July 11, 2012”

  1. “What if regular schools could also get rid of the students who don’t want to work?”

    Well, I’m not sure if I’d mind if if they could get rid of the ones who don’t want to work and who are disruptive, harsh as that sounds.


  2. Yeah, mixed results on charter school effectiveness. I think the bad ones are easier to close than traditional schools are, so at least there’s that.


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