The “Department of Education Reform” at the University of Arkansas published a study touting the stupendous results of “no excuses” charter schools, where students are subjected to strict discipline and intense test prep.

The National Education Policy Center engaged Professor Jeanette Powers of Arizona State University to review the study, and she criticized it strongly. Subsequently, the study was revised and then reviewed again.

Professor Powers still find the claims to be inflated.

“The primary (and repeated) claim of the report is that “No Excuses” charter schools can close the achievement gap. Powers explains that the underlying research that this report relies upon only supports the more limited and appropriate claim that the subset of No Excuses charter schools have done relatively well in raising the test scores of the students who participate in school lotteries and then attended the schools. The claim that these schools can close the achievement gap is supported by nothing other than an arithmetic extrapolation of evidence that comes with clear limitations.

“A common and well-recognized problem in charter school research is “selection effects.” That is, parents who choose “No Excuses” schools may be more educated, more engaged in the school-selection process, and differ in other significant ways from those parents who did not choose such a school. This would logically be a major concern for oversubscribed “No Excuses” schools, but the findings cannot be generalized to all parents.

“Over-subscribed schools that conduct lotteries for student admission are, one would assume, different from less popular schools. Nevertheless, Cheng et al. imply that the findings can be generalized to all No Excuses charter schools.

“The prominent and oversubscribed “No Excuses” schools are often supported by extensive outside resources. Offering an extended school day, for example, may not be financially feasible for other schools, and the scaling-up costs of doing so are not addressed. A charter that takes the No-Excuses approach yet lacks the additional resources should not be assumed to show the same results.

“The sample of schools included in the studies Cheng et al. analyzed is largely drawn from major urban areas in the Northeast and is small, particularly at the high school level.”

Find Powers’ original review and follow-up review of the “No Excuses” charter report here.

The original Arkansas report is currently available at the following url:

The republished version of the Arkansas report is currently available at the following url:

Click to access OP226.pdf