Evaluating Newark's Education Reforms

Aided by $200 million in private philanthropy, city and state leaders launched a major school reform effort in Newark, New Jersey. In this study, researchers evaluate the impacts of Newark’s education reform efforts, starting in the 2011–2012 school year.

  • Prior to the reform, the average rate of student achievement growth in Grades 4–8 (combining Newark’s district and charter schools) was above the state average in math and comparable to the state average in English, largely driven by strong results in the Newark charter sector.
  • On net, by the 2015–2016 academic year, Newark students had seen a significant improvement in the rate of growth in English and no significant change in math.
  • The progress did not follow a straight line. Indeed, during the initial years of the reform, the rate of student achievement growth declined in both the district and charter schools in English and math before recovering to earlier levels of growth in math and exceeding earlier growth rates in English.
  • Much of the net change in achievement growth in Newark was driven by shifts in enrollment due to school closures, new school openings, and student choice, as opposed to improvements in achievement growth within existing schools. Shifting enrollment from lower- to higher-achievement growth schools was responsible for nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of the gain in English. In math, average achievement growth would have declin relative to the baseline years if students had not shifted to higher-growth schools.
  • Although many Newark parents seemed to “opt out” of state tests in the spring of 2015, we find no evidence that the gains in Newark in the 2014–2015 school year were caused by the increase in the number of opt-outs.
Chin, M., Kane, T., Kozakowski, W., Schueler, B., & Staiger, D. (Working Paper). School District Reform in Newark: Within- and Between- School Changes in Achievement Growth. NBER Working Paper 23922 . Publisher's VersionAbstract
In 2011-12, Newark launched a set of educational reforms supported by $20 million gift. Using data from 2009 through 2016, we evaluate the change in Newark students’ achievement growth relative to similar students and schools elsewhere in New Jersey. We measure achievement growth using a “value-added” model, controlling for prior achievement, demographics and peer characteristics. By the fifth year of reform, Newark saw statistically significant gains in English and no significant change in math achievement growth. Perhaps due to the disruptive nature of the reforms, growth declined initially before rebounding in recent years. Aided by the closure of low value-added schools, much of the improvement was due to shifting enrollment from lower-to higher-growth district and charter schools. Shifting enrollment accounted for 62 percent of the improvement in English. In math, such shifts offset what would have been a decline in achievement growth.
Chin, M., Kane, T., Kozakowski, W., Schueler, B., & Staiger, D. (2017). Assessing the Impact of the Newark Education Reforms . Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.Abstract
Aided by $200 million in private philanthropy, city and state leaders launched a major school reform effort in Newark, New Jersey, starting in the 2011–2012 school year. In a coinciding National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper, we assessed the impact of those reforms on student achievement growth, comparing students in Newark Public Schools (NPS) district and charter schools to students with similar prior achievement, similar demographics, and similar peers elsewhere in New Jersey. This report includes key findings.
Douglas Staiger

Douglas Staiger

Co-Principal Investigator; CEPR Advisory Board Member
John French Professor of Economics
Department of Economics, Dartmouth College