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Study: Boarding Schools Don't Benefit All Students

“Ready for Boarding? The Effects of a Boarding School for Disadvantaged Students”

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Can academic boarding schools remove the environmental barriers to achievement for disadvantaged students? Yes—and no—finds, a new study of French schools.

Economists from the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, and the Paris School of Economics followed 258 low-income students who won lotteries to the "internats d'excellence," or "boarding schools of excellence," in Paris, which offer free tuition to students in poverty. The researchers matched those students by demographic background and performance on a standardized mathematics test with 137 8th to 10th grade students who applied but did not win a place in the lotteries in September 2009 and 2010. After a year in the boarding school, the disadvantaged students who won the lottery had roughly similar educational outcomes to those who had not and experienced lower reported levels of well-being. However, by the end of the second year, the scholarship winners were performing 20 percent of a standard deviation higher on a standardized math test than the nonwinning lottery participants.

But there's a catch: The improvement was driven by students who had initially scored in the upper third of math performance. These initially higher-achieving students improved half of a standard deviation more for each year in the boarding school than did the control group students.

"Overall, our results suggest that boarding is a disruptive form of schooling for students," the authors said. While strong students make academic progress, they write, "this type of school does not seem well suited to weaker students: Even after two years, we do not observe any test-score gains among them."

Vol. 34, Issue 21, Page 5

Published in Print: February 18, 2015, as Study: Boarding Schools Don't Benefit All Students
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