Report Recommends Expanding No-Excuses Charter Practices but Does Not Recognize or Address Limits and Potential Problems

BOULDER, CO (April 10, 2018) – Charter Schools and the Achievement Gap, published by The Future of Children, associated with the Brookings Institution and Princeton University, finds that, though charter schools on average perform no better than traditional public schools, urban “no-excuses” charter schools—which often use intensive discipline to enforce order—demonstrate promising results.

Professors A. Chris Torres of Michigan State University and Joanne Golann of Vanderbilt University reviewed the report and found three major flaws with its conclusion that these schools and their practices should be widely replicated within and outside of the charter school sector.

First, the report’s recommendations are based solely on the academic success of these schools, which some believe come with real drawbacks. In particular, the report does not address the controversy over their use of harsh disciplinary methods. No-excuses disciplinary practices can contribute to high rates of exclusionary discipline (e.g., suspensions that push students out of school) and may not support a broad definition of student success.

Second, the recommendation that schools replicate no-excuses practices begs the question of what exactly should be replicated. The call for replication does not confront the lack of research identifying which school practices are effective for improving student achievement. 

Third, the report does not address many of the underlying factors that would allow no-excuses schools and their practices to successfully replicate, such as additional resources as well as teachers, students and families willing and able to abide by these schools’ stringent practices.

Thus, Professors Torres and Golann conclude that while the report is nuanced in its review of charter school impacts, it lacks this same care in drawing its conclusions—greatly decreasing the usefulness of the report.

Find the review, by A. Chris Torres and Joanne W. Golann, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-no-excuses

Find Charter Schools and the Achievement Gap, written by Sarah Cohodes and published by The Future of Children, at:
https://futureofchildren.princeton.edu/news/charter-schools-and-achievement-gap

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

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