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Jeanne M. Powers, (480) 965-0841,
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

"No Excuses" Meta-Analysis Overstates Findings

Working paper offers few insights for decision-making

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 20, 2015) – In December, the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform (DER) published a working paper claiming to be the first meta-analysis of the achievement impacts of "No Excuses" charter schools. The authors declared that students attending No Excuses charter schools had significantly improved math and reading scores. An academic review of the paper finds it offers few insights for policymakers.

Jeanne Powers, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State, reviewed No Excuses Charter Schools: A Meta-Analysis of the Experimental Evidence for the Think Twice think tank review project. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) produced the review with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. Dr. Powers is a sociologist whose research focuses on school segregation, school choice, and school finance litigation.

According to the paper, No Excuses schools feature high academic standards, strict disciplinary codes, extended instructional time, and targeted supports for low-performing students. The hope is that by having high standards for academics and discipline, No Excuses schools will help close the achievement gap between minority students and their White peers. The authors used findings from 10 studies that utilized experimental methods to estimate achievement outcomes.

Powers, in her review, finds several flaws in the paper: (1) students who apply to charter school lotteries are not representative of all charter school students; (2) the authors did not address student attrition from charter schools; and (3) the results are based on a small sample of schools concentrated in East Coast cities.

She says, "As a result, the author's claim that No Excuses schools can close the achievement gap substantially overstates their findings." Furthermore, Powers cautions "the current research base is too limited to make conclusions about the effectiveness of No Excuses charter schools."

In her conclusion, Powers finds that the working paper is of limited value to policymakers or anyone seeking to understand the advantages or disadvantages of the No Excuses model.

Read the full review at:

Find No Excuses Charter Schools: A Meta-Analysis of the Experimental Evidence on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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