No Excuses charter school model

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

No Excuses charter schools focus heavily on reading and math achievement, enforce high behavioral expectations through a formal discipline system, and substantially increase instruction time relative to traditional public schools (TPS)1, 2. Teachers receive more feedback about their teaching than peers in other schools and regularly use data from student assessments to modify instruction; school days and school years are often longer than those in TPS2. No Excuses schools often offer intense tutoring, especially for students with remedial needs2, 3. As with other charter schools, No Excuses schools use public finances and are not subject to many of the regulations that govern TPS such as staffing, curriculum, and budgeting requirements4.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased academic achievement

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Increased college enrollment

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that charter schools that follow the No Excuses model increase students’ academic achievement1, 2, 5, 6, 7; achievement gains are large and meaningful6. Academic gains appear strongest for black and Hispanic students, students from families with low incomes, and students who enter the school with low achievement scores1.

No Excuses schools increase students’ reading and math achievement more than traditional public schools (TPS)1, 2, 5, 6, 8, and more than many other charter school models1, 6; gains are largest in math achievement5, 6, 7. Gains for students in No Excuses charter schools relative to TPS peers increase for up to three years, then tend to stabilize5. No Excuses schools can also increase students’ scores on high school exit exams and college entrance exams, and increase likelihood of college enrollment, compared to students who do not win admittance lotteries for No Excuses schools9. Even when admitted at the high school level, attending a No Excuses school has a positive effect on college matriculation, quality, and persistence10.

A Houston-based study indicates that when low performing traditional public schools restructure to follow No Excuses principles, students can increase math achievement, especially when offered intense tutoring3, 7.

Although attending No Excuses charter schools increases students’ test scores and college enrollment, current studies suggest only a small, statistically insignificant increase on earnings later in life11.

Per pupil expenditures vary by school. In a Boston-based study, expenditures by No Excuses charter schools were similar to those of traditional public schools1. In a Houston-based study, reforming low performing traditional public schools to incorporate No Excuses principles increased cost by $1800 per pupil, mainly due to the lengthened school day and the cost of intense tutoring for some students12.

Additional research is needed to determine whether the No Excuses model could be effectively scaled to additional schools and which elements of the model are most crucial to success3. An examination of an effort to scale up the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) model No Excuses school suggests gains in student academic achievement can be maintained with program expansion13.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated likely to decrease disparities.
Implementation Examples

Charter schools that follow the No Excuses model are often established in low income, urban areas7. Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools14, the Promise Academy in the Harlem Children’s Zone15, and SEED16 are examples of schools following the No Excuses model. SEED schools, located in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., board students five days a week and teach non-academic content such as nutrition and social skills16.

Implementation Resources

KIPP - Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP).

HCZ-PA - Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). Promise Academy K-12 Charter Schools.


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1 Angrist 2013 - Angrist JD, Pathak PA, Walters CR. Explaining charter school effectiveness. American Economic Journal. 2013;5(4):1-27.

2 Dobbie 2013 - Dobbie W, Fryer Jr. RG. Getting beneath the veil of effective schools: Evidence from New York City. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. 2013;5(4):28–60.

3 Fryer 2014 - Fryer RG. Injecting charter schools best practices into traditional public schools: Evidence from field experiments. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2014;129(3):1355-1407.

4 Mathematica-Clark 2011 - Clark MA, Gleason P, Tuttle CC, Silverberg MK. Do charter schools improve student achievement? Evidence from a national randomized study. Princeton: Mathematica Policy Research (MPR); 2011.

5 Krowka 2017 - Krowka S, Hadd A, Marx R. 'No Excuses' charter schools for increasing math and literacy achievement in primary and secondary education. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2017;13(August).

6 Cheng 2017 - Cheng A, Hitt C, Kisida B, Mills JN. 'No Excuses' charter schools: A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence on student achievement. Journal of School Choice. 2017;11(2):209-238.

7 NBER-Chabrier 2016 - Chabrier J, Gill B, Gleason P, Furgeson J, Clark C. What can we learn from charter school lotteries? Journal of Economic Perspectives. 2016;30(3):57-84.

8 Abdulkadiroglu 2011 - Abdulkadiroglu A, Angrist JD, Dynarski SM, Kane TJ, Pathak PA. Accountability and flexibility in public schools: Evidence from Boston’s charters and pilots. Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2011;126(2):699-748.

9 NBER-Angrist 2013 - Angrist JD, Cohodes SR, Dynarski SM, Pathak PA, Walters CR. Stand and deliver: Effects of Boston's charter high schools on college preparation, entry, and choice. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). 2013: Working Paper 19275.

10 Davis 2017 - Davis M, Heller B. 'No Excuses' charter schools and college enrollment: New evidence from a high school network in Chicago. Education Finance and Policy. 2017;(November):1-57.

11 NBER-Dobbie 2016 - Dobbie W, Fryer RG. Charter schools and labor market outcomes. National Bureau of Economic Research. 2016.

12 Fryer 2012 - Fryer R Jr. Learning from the successes and failures of charter schools. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution; 2012: Discussion Paper.

13 Mathematica-Tuttle 2015 - Tuttle CC, Gleason P, Knechtel V, et al. Understanding the effect of KIPP as it scales: Volume 1, impacts on achievement and other outcomes. Washington, D.C.: Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), KIPP Foundation; 2015.

14 Mathematica-Booker 2014 - Booker K, Gill B, Sass T, Zimmer R. Charter high schools’ effects on long-term attainment and earnings. Mathematica Policy Research (MPR); 2014.

15 NBER-Dobbie 2013 - Dobbie W, Fryer Jr. RG. The medium-term impacts of high-achieving charter schools on non-test score outcomes. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). 2013.

16 Curto 2014 - Curto VE, Fryer Jr. RG. The potential of urban boarding schools for the poor: Evidence from SEED. Journal of Labor Economics. 2014;32(1):65-93.