Research from MIT economists shows that students who attended Noble schools grew more academically than similar peers who attended elite, selective enrollment high schools

In new research published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers found that Noble high schools boost achievement sharply for students just below the cutoff for selective enrollment schools. Similar peers who ultimately attended selective enrollment schools experienced less academic growth.

The research titled, “Choice and Consequence: Assessing Mismatch at Chicago Exam Schools” by Joshua D. Angrist, Parag Pathak, and Román Andrés Zárate was released as a discussion paper by the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative (SEII), a research lab in the MIT Department of Economics while it awaits peer review.

This research comes on the heels of Chicago Magazine naming Noble schools as 13 of the top 40 high schools in the city and the Niche research group naming all 17 Noble high schools to their list of the top 30 charter schools in Illinois.

Angrist, Pathak, and Zárate state in the paper: “Because Noble enrollment boosts achievement sharply, the diversion away from Noble induced by a selective enrollment high school reduces test scores.”

Later in the paper they continue, “We show here that negative exam school effects reflect diversion: exam school offers divert many applicants away from high-performing high schools in the Noble Network. Students who enroll at Noble instead of an exam school do better as a result, so exam school offers reduce achievement.”

“We’re extraordinarily proud to see the efforts of our teachers and students recognized in this way – it validates what we hear from families each day – that they choose Noble for a rigorous college-prep education,” said Constance Jones, CEO of Noble. “This isn’t about one school type or another, it’s about families having great options beyond selective enrollment schools – this research again demonstrates Noble is one of those great public school options.”

MIT researchers found that students who just missed qualifying for a selective enrollment school in reading or math actually fared better than those students who did qualify and then ultimately attended selective enrollment schools. These results were similar for students from more and less disadvantaged backgrounds, as defined by the CPS tier system. Noble’s positive effects on math achievement are noteworthy given its students enter high school with prior test scores well below selective enrollment schools and even below the CPS average.

“This research is important because it tells Chicago families they have many excellent choices for high school education within CPS in addition to selective enrollment schools,” said Ellen Metz, head of schools at Noble. “Like all charter public schools in CPS, Noble welcomes all students — we require no admission testing, nor any tuition. Our staff deliver life-changing education with love and high expectations so our students can succeed to and through college. This research supports that.”

Chicago education experts noted the importance of the study. “What makes Chicago great is its diversity of rich learning environments in which students thrive. Noble is a valuable part of that success story, and we congratulate the network on its achievements,” said Heather Y. Anichini, CEO of The Chicago Public Education Fund.

“This research echoes the experience of our family. We were worried about where our children would attend high school and even considered leaving the city when we were rejected from selective enrollment schools,” said Melvin McGrew a parent of a student who attended Butler College Prep. “We’re thrilled we didn’t leave, our student graduated and is now thriving at Western Illinois in Macomb. Their experience at Noble made that happen.”

“Noble is a part of Chicago Public Schools,” said Jones, “The success recognized within this study is something the entire city can be proud of. Noble is one of many great public education options for families in the city of Chicago and we hope all families will consider us when it comes time for high school.” 

More key quotes from the research:

1. “Specifically, mismatch arises because exam school admission diverts many applicants from high-performing Noble Network charter schools, where they would have done well.” (p1)

2. “Because Noble enrollment boosts achievement sharply, the diversion away from Noble induced by a selective enrollment high school reduces test scores.” (p3)

3. “It seems likely, therefore, that negative exam school effects are generated by forces other than mismatch. We show here that negative exam school effects reflect diversion: exam school offers divert many applicants away from high-performing high schools in the Noble Network. Students who enroll at Noble instead of an exam school do better as a result, so exam school offers reduce achievement.” (p16)

4. “It therefore seems likely that Noble enrollment explains negative exam school effects on college selectivity as well as on test scores.” (p25)

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