An Overview Of Exam Schools

One response to the collective failure of public education to respond to personalized learning needs is an exam school.

Rather than differentiate or personalize learning opportunities, exam schools cater to accelerated academic learning that relies on entrance exams and rigorous academic coursework. While an in-depth data examination of their performance can be seen here, this post is meant as a basic introduction of the trend itself.

The Exam School Treatment

From the paper “The Elite Illusion: Achievement Eff ects at Boston and New York Exam Schools,” the exam school treatment is as follows:

1) Peer E ects

  • Exam school students study with peers who have similarly high levels of achievement

2) Tracking

  • Advanced courses, links with local scientists, math and science competitions, other academic enrichment activities

3) Resources

  • Some have modern science labs and well-equipped athletic facilities
  • Alumni networks and donations
  • More senior teaching sta (though not necessarily the best teachers)
  • Exam classes are larger (21 vs. 15 in Boston; 31 vs. 27 in NYC), exam schools sometimes said to be crowded
  • Because the resource comparison is mixed, we see the exam school experiment as most informative about a combination of peer and tracking e ffects
3 Myths of Exams Schools
Obviously this video is subjective, but it does provide a counter-point to the accusation of “elitism.” The video can be seen here.

Graphical Overview

There are 20,000 public schools across the United States, according to the infographic below. Exam schools? 165, for a total of about 1% of the country’s student population.

America’s Neglected Geniuses

Image attribution and flickr user officialusnavalimagery