The piece references a study that shows class size, spending, "highly qualified teachers," and more traditionally accepted ingredients of a quality school actually have no correlation to a school whose students achieve. Instead, the key factor in a quality school is the school's culture. If schools want their student outcomes to improve, they should focus on improving their culture.
Some key paragraphs from the article:
[Study author Roland] Fryer found that class size, per-pupil spending, and the number of teachers with certifications or advanced degrees had nothing to do with student test scores in language and math. In fact, schools that poured in more resources actually got worse results.
What did make a difference? ... Schools that focused on teacher development, data-driven instruction, creating a culture focused on student achievement, and setting high academic expectations consistently fared better. The results were consistent whether the charter's (only charter school's were studied) program was geared towards the creative arts or hard-core behavioral discipline.
The findings all get summed up in a group of handy tables. First, here are the ingredients you think of as being important to a school -- what Fryer calls "traditional" resource-based inputs. Most of those factors don't have a statistically significant relationship to school performance. Some actually have a negative effect.Then Fryer compared less traditional cultural factors to student performance. Teacher feedback and instruction time had the strongest connection. In sum, these six factors explained about 50% of the variations between charter school outcomes.
Read the whole thing.