I think that we were a little blasé about how hard it is to do… And maybe the industry is now grappling with the difference between 2 percent tolerance and 0 percent tolerance [for mistakes]. Zero percent may be the new model, especially in places that have recently experienced public outcries over spills, including Australia, Brazil and the United States.”

Urban charter schools tend to boost performance for minority students from parts of the city with low achievement scores. In other words, they help students who enter school with lots of room for improvement. At the same time, the non-urban charter schools evaluated by Angrist and company struggled to boost academic achievement at all. In fact, the researchers think urban charters would outperform non-urban charters even if the student populations were (in a demographic sense) similar. True, non-urban charter students typically enter school with a higher baseline, but the schools themselves don’t seem to be elevating the level of achievement.

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Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and...