Those who believe that charter schools have the potential to boost educational opportunities for large numbers of students across the United States also acknowledge a simple truth: Charters today occupy a relatively small slice of the public school market and at their current rate of growth, it would take many years for them to reach a substantial portion of the population.
In a new paper published by the Hamilton Project, Harvard University economics professor Roland Fryer addresses that limitation and points to a way around it: exporting best practices from charters into regular public school systems, particularly struggling ones. Mr. Fryer says preliminary results from demonstration projects he and other researchers are conducting in Denver and Houston show that school systems can benefit from incorporating charter-school-style practices in scheduling, the use of data, tutoring, and other areas.
The researchers examined data from Denver and Houston and found that students in groups of schools that implemented a series of practices improved their test scores. Those practices included replacing some teachers and principals (some of whom left voluntarily); refining the use of data and using it to monitor student progress; establishing intensive tutoring; extending the school day and school year; and setting higher individual goals for students.
The increase in student test scores resulting from those policies is similar to those found in the most-effective charters, said Mr. Fryer, who once served as chief equality officer in the New York City schools, working on teacher performance pay, student motivation, and other issues. The results in Denver and Houston are preliminary but promising, he writes, because they suggest that educational strategies in play in charters can work in other settings.
The researchers also place a price tag on making those changes: $2,000 per student.
The Hamilton Project, named after Alexander Hamilton, makes policy proposals aimed at strengthening the American economy. It is based at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
A version of this article appeared in the October 10, 2012 edition of Education Week as Paper Suggests Scaling Up Lessons From Charters