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Traditional or charter schools? Actually, they help each other, study says.

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Dr. Fryer, who is the faculty director of Harvard’s Education Innovations Laboratories (EdLabs), studied 35 charter schools in New York and discovered the top five practices that separate low- and high-achieving charter schools: (1) extended time at school, (2) strong administrators and teachers, (3) data-driven instruction, (4) small-group tutoring, and (5) creating a “culture of high expectations.”

Fryer and HISD superintendent Terry Grier used grants from the US Department of Education and private funding – together totaling $2,200 per student – to implement the five practices. To meet those goals, the schools:

  1. Extended the academic year by five days and added one hour to each day.
  2. Replaced 53 percent of the teachers and all of the school principals.
  3. Assessed the students every six weeks, reviewed the effectiveness of teaching methods from the data they had gathered, and set new goals.
  4. Gave sixth- and ninth-graders two-on-one math instruction by full-time tutors.
  5. Established a culture of high expectations by posting goals in the classrooms.

Dr. Grier said that fixing low-performing schools is not rocket science. “I’ve never been to a high-performing school that didn’t have a good principal and good teachers,” Grier said at the Hamilton forum.

The report says the test scores, especially for math, increased dramatically (though it did not include the test scores). Fryer calculated that the progress in Houston was equivalent to giving the students an additional 3-1/2 months of math instruction and three weeks of reading instruction. The report shows similar progress for the pilot program in Denver, which began in 2011.

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