Study: LA’s new schools help younger students

Los Angeles Unified built 131 new schools in the last decade to end overcrowding. Elementary students who moved into new schools made strong achievement gains equal to another 35 days of schooling, according to a Berkeley study. But high school students improved only a bit in English Language Arts and not at all in math when they moved from a crowded building to a new facility.

“How new elementary schools are lifting achievement remains somewhat of a mystery,” said William Welsh, the UC Berkeley Ph.D. student who carried out the statistical analysis. “New schools in LA Unified are much smaller than older schools, perhaps offering warmer, personal settings that are more conducive to kids’ learning.”

. . . Achievement gains were even stronger for elementary students escaping the most severely overcrowded schools and landing at a new campus – gains equivalent to lengthening the school year by up to 65 days, said the report.

LA Unified spent just under $15,000 per pupil, on average, for the new schools. “We found no evidence suggesting that more expensive school facilities yield stronger achievement,” Berkeley Professor Bruce Fuller said.

 

Secondary teachers are smarter

While would-be elementary teachers have below-average SAT and GRE scores, aspiring secondary subject-matter teachers compare well to other students, writes Education Realist.

The Richwine-Biggs study (pdf), which concludes teachers have lower cognitive skills than workers with similar education levels, combines elementary and secondary teachers, Realist complains.

Secondary teachers specializing in a subject — English, history, math, science — have “much stronger academic histories” than elementary, special education and phys ed teachers, ETS reports (pdf).

 

K-8 charters show reading, math gains

Charter elementary schools outperform traditional public schools in reading and math and charter middle schools do better in math, according to The Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement, an analysis of 40 high-quality studies by economists Julian Betts and Emily Tan of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE).  Overall, the gains are “modest but positive.”

Middle-school reading scores and high school math and reading were about the same.

Charter school effects vary dramatically, the meta-analysis found. Urban charter schools perform better than suburban or rural charters, especially at the middle and high school levels. In particular, Boston charter schools performed significantly better than traditional public schools; New York City charters also showed strong gains.

KIPP  middle-school students showed “significant and large improvements in both math and reading.”  A student who started at the 50th percentile could expect to move to the 59th percentile in math and the 54th percentile in reading in a single year.