Math scores rose significantly in the first year of Houston’s Apollo experiment, but reading scores did not. Emulating high-performing charter schools, the low-performing Apollo schools feature a longer school day and year, data analysis, “trying to hire the best teachers and principals and cultivating a ‘no excuses’ attitude,” reports the Houston Chronicle.
Students in sixth and ninth grades got daily tutoring in math from specially hired tutors, one of the program’s most expensive elements. Struggling upperclassmen took an extra computer-based class in reading or math.
(Harvard economist Roland) Fryer’s research found that the tutoring was extremely effective but that the double courses generally were not.
A “back-of-the-envelope calculation,” according to Fryer, showed that the Apollo program produced a 20 percent return on investment – which is higher than other educational reforms such as lowering class sizes and preschool.
Five of the nine schools improved enough to escape the “unacceptable” rating.
Fryer summarizes the first-year results in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper. The Houston results are “strikingly similar to reported impacts of attending the Harlem Children’s Zone and Knowledge is Power Program schools,” both no-excuses adherents, Fryer notes.