The latest “quick review” from the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse gives a nod of approval to the research design used by scholars to study Harlem’s Promise Academy Charter Middle School in New York City.
The Promise Academy Charter Middle School is part of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a high-profile initiative that combines charter schools with wraparound community services, such as free medical services, early-childhood programs, parenting workshops, and asthma and anti-obesity programs.
In a working paper posted last fall on the National Bureau of Economic Research Website, Harvard University researchers Roland G. Fryer Jr. and Will S. Dobbie report on an experiment tracking 470 students who applied to enroll in the program as 6th graders. Through a lottery process, half the students were assigned to the school and half were turned away. By the end of 8th grade, the study found, the charter students were outperforming their noncharter peers on state exams, especially in math where their performance increased from the 50th to the 71st percentile.
In its review of that paper, the clearinghouse concludes that the study’s methods were consistent with the agency’s rigorous evidence standards.
A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 2010 edition of Education Week as Harlem Children’s Zone