Last Thursday, as CPS parents are in the final critical weeks of high school registration decisions through the GoCPS system, a panel of education experts discussed new research published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which 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. 

Dr. Parag Pathak, an MIT professor of economics who presented his research Thursday, stated in the paper, “Because Noble enrollment boosts achievement sharply, the diversion away from Noble induced by a selective enrollment high school reduces test scores.”

“I’ve talked with parents who are often debating whether they have to leave the city after their child wasn’t admitted to a selective enrollment school, but the study shows that’s not necessary. Noble is a great choice for kids across Chicago, and often it’s the best choice,” said Constance Jones, CEO of Noble. “I’m really proud that we are an option to successfully serve all students, regardless of the preparation they’ve received. We believe each child is capable of excellence when loved by their teachers and held accountable to high expectations.”

 “Evaluating test scores is one of many important components of school quality, but generally people focus on attainment. What strikes me about the research is its focus on academic growth, not just attainment,” said Nate Pietrini, executive director of High Jump Chicago. “Matching students to the school where they will experience the greatest academic growth compared to other high school choices is where I see Noble’s significant successes in this study.”

Tanesha Peeples, deputy director of outreach for Education Post, added, “I’ve observed that some of our Chicago students attend underperforming schools because their parents just don’t understand the choices they have. I grew up in Englewood, a traditionally under-resourced neighborhood of Chicago. My parents knew to seek out a great high school choice for me, and this study shows today’s parents that excellent options continue to expand across the entire city, including in Englewood, where their kids can thrive.”

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.

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)

Read the full study here:

Earlier this month, the 2019 School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) placed Noble public charter high schools in 10 of the top 12 ranking slots, including four of the top five spots. Plus in 2019, Chicago Magazine named Noble schools as 13 of the top 40 high schools in the city and the Niche research group named all 17 Noble high schools to their list of the top 30 charter schools in Illinois.

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