The Five Tenets of Highly Effective NYC Charters

New York City, NY
New York City Charter School
Center and NYC charter schools

Learning from High-Performing Charters



By using charter school admission lottery results to compare the outcomes of admitted students against those who were not accepted, can we identify the most effective charter schools, and then identify which specific policies and practices contribute to their success in raising student achievement?


In this study, we collected data on the inner-workings of 35 charter schools in New York City and correlated these data with estimates of each school’s effectiveness. We partnered with the New York City Charter School Center, the New York City Department of Education, and participating charter schools that enrolled more than 11,000 students in total. The data that we collected included interviews, lesson plans, student work, video-taped classroom observations, and publicly available information.


In stark contrast to conventional wisdom, we found that traditionally collected input measures, such as class size and teacher qualifications, are not correlated with school effectiveness. Instead, we identified five “tenets” of high-performing charters – practices that collectively explained approximately 50% of the variation in school effectiveness. They are:

  • an extended school day and year,
  • the use of data to drive instruction,
  • devotion to high-quality human capital,
  • a culture of high expectations, and
  • small group tutoring.


Read the full paper.

The five tenets of high-performing charters identified here may provide a long-awaited “vaccine” for public education. If replicated in traditional schools, these practices hold the potential to yield significant learning gains and help close the pernicious achievement gap that has plagued American schools for generations.

Once we identified the five tenets that drive student achievement in successful schools, we set out to evaluate whether the same gains could be achieved by implementing these tenets in traditional, low-performing public schools.