What Difference Does Winning ‘The Lottery’ At A High Performing Charter School Make?
New York – June 9, 2010 – According to a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, students attending the Harlem Success Academy Charter School (HSA) in New York City dramatically outperform similar students who apply but are not accepted via random lottery. The study, by researchers Jonathan Supovitz and Sam Rikoon, also found that students who enrolled in the public charter school outperformed similar students in comparable public schools in the neighborhood by an even wider margin.
Everything, Say Researchers studying Harlem Success Academy
Students who are selected via random lottery to attend the popular Harlem Success Academy end up dramatically outperforming similar students who apply but are not accepted. “This is the kind of evidence that conjures up all sorts of powerful emotions for our teachers and staff,” said Eva Moskowitz, Founder and CEO of Success Charter Network, which operates the school.
Compared with non-lotteried in students: “The HSA 3rd graders performed a statistically significant 48 points higher in mathematics than did the 3rd graders not chosen by lottery to attend HSA, and remained in New York City schools,” the researchers wrote. “In [reading], the HSA 3rd graders performed a statistically significant 35 points higher than did the 3rd graders that were not chosen by the lottery to attend HSA and remained in other New York City schools.”
Compared with students in comparable neighborhood public schools: “In mathematics, HSA 3rd graders performed, on average, 58 scale score points higher on the New York state test, after adjusting for group differences. This represented a 19 percent higher level of performance associated with attending HSA. In [reading], the differences were just under 40 scale score points, which translates to just over a 13 percent difference associated with attending HSA.”
“On the one hand, we can see that the hard work we perform in our classrooms proves that these students are capable of being educated at extremely high levels. On the other hand, it reminds you that we all need to do a much better job providing these kinds of opportunities for all students. A child shouldn’t have to win the lottery to be able to attend a fantastic school,” Moskowitz continued.
When comparing HSA students both with similar students who applied to the school but were not selected in the lottery and with similar public school students in the neighborhood, the researchers found that students attending HSA scored 13-19% higher on the same reading and math tests. Sophisticated regression-analysis was used to control for other external factors.
Harlem Success students outperformed both students who applied to HSA and were not admitted through the lottery and students in similar comparison schools.
Harlem Success Academy, and its high-profile student enrollment lottery, are the subject of two independent, documentary films. “The Lottery” by filmmaker Madeleine Sackler, debuted this spring at the Tribeca Film Festival and that opened nationally today. “Waiting for Superman,” by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures in September.
Both films view the enrollment lottery from the eyes of parents who believe that winning a spot in the high performing public charter school is the key to their child’s future. The UPenn researchers found evidence that these parents are onto something: Winning a seat in the school does indeed make a statistical difference in terms of how the students are educated.
But winning a seat through the lottery remains difficult because of the lack of quality public school offerings in neighborhoods like Harlem. This past year, 7000 students applied for 1100 slots in Success Academy schools in Harlem and the South Bronx.
The study can be found here: http://www.gse.upenn.edu/faculty/supovitz
About Harlem Success Academy Charter School
Harlem Success Academy Charter School, which opened in August 2006 on 118th Street and Lenox Avenue, was the first of four Harlem Success Academies founded by Success Charter Network (SCN). SCN will open three more in 2010, for a total of seven schools in New York City. Success Charter Network plans to open a total of 40 high-performing charter schools in New York City over the next ten years.
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