Type: Public event

Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Close the Achievement Gap?: Evidence from a Bold Social Experiment in Harlem

Date & time

Jan 20, 2010, 4:00-5:30 pm EST


Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Annenberg Auditorium. 1120 Weill Hall 735 South State St., Ann Arbor, MI

Free and open to the public.
For more information call (734) 647-4091.

Roland Fryer is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University, a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the CEO of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University.

Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), which combines community investments with reform minded charter schools, is one of the most ambitious social experiments to alleviate poverty of our time.

This presentation will review the first empirical test of the causal impact of HCZ on educational outcomes, with an eye toward informing the long-standing debate whether schools alone can eliminate the achievement gap or whether the issues that poor children bring to school are too much for educators alone to overcome.

Both lottery and instrumental variable identification strategies lead us to the same story: Harlem Children's Zone is effective at increasing the achievement of the poorest minority children. Taken at face value, the effects in middle school are enough to close the black-white achievement gap in mathematics and reduce it by nearly half in English Language Arts. The effects in elementary school close the racial achievement gap in both subjects.

We conclude by presenting four pieces of evidence that high-quality schools or high-quality schools coupled with community investments generate the achievement gains. Community investments alone cannot explain the results.

Roland Fryer, Jr. is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a former junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows—one of academia's most prestigious research posts. In January 2008, at the age of 30, he became the youngest African-American to receive tenure from Harvard. He has been awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation, and the inaugural Alphonse Fletcher Award ('Guggenheims for race issues').

In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, Fryer served as the Chief Equality Officer at the New York City Department of Education during the 2007-2008 school year. In this role, he developed and implemented several innovative ideas on student motivation and teacher pay-for-performance concepts. He won a Titanium Lion at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival (Breakthrough Idea of the Year in 2008) for the Million Motivation Campaign.

Fryer has published papers on topics such as the racial achievement gap, the causes and consequences of distinctively black names, affirmative action, the impact of the crack cocaine epidemic, historically black colleges and universities, and 'acting white.' He is an unapologetic analyst of American inequality who uses theoretical, empirical, and experimental tools to squeeze truths from data—wherever that may lead.

Fryer is a 2009 recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest award bestowed by the government on scientists beginning their independent careers. He is also part of the '2009 Time 100,' Time Magazine's annual list of the world's most influential people. Fryer's work has been profiled in almost every major U.S. newspaper and CNN's breakthrough documentary 'Black in America.'

Learn more about Fryer and his research:



Sponsored by the Education Policy Initiative (EPI) at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. EPI is a program of coordinated activities designed to bring the latest academic knowledge to issues of education policy.