Introduced in the 2002/03 school year by the Labour government of the time, academy schools enjoy more autonomy than traditional community schools. The original (‘sponsored’) academies are able to operate outside of local authority control and are managed by a team of independent co-sponsors who delegate management of the school to a largely self-appointed board of governors responsible for hiring staff, performance management, the curriculum, and length of the school day. Unlike most charter schools, academies are typically conversions from pre-existing schools.And that last fact allows the Two Brits to do some evaluatin' of those schools that converted between 2003-09.
...outcomes were compared for pupils who were enrolled in an academy school prior to conversion, but who took their exams in the school post conversion, with pupils attending schools that later became academies under the same Labour government programme. Focusing on students enrolled in the academy before conversion ameliorates concerns related to non-random school choice. Similarly, studying pupils that sit their exams at a school that later becomes an academy as a control group nets out unobservable confounders (e.g. ‘ethos’ to become an academy) at the school level.
The findings are that academy attendance can lead to sizeable gains in pupil achievement. Figure 1 shows event study estimates of the effect of academy attendance on standardised tests (Key Stage 4, KS4) taken in the final year of compulsory schooling. The y-axis denotes standard deviation changes.The picture at these institutions;
Figure 1. Effect of academy attendance on standardised tests, taken at final year of compulsory schoolingYear C marks the spot where dismal performance ends.
Given that, after Labour was voted out of power, the Tory led coalition government gave England the Academies Act of 2010, which expanded the program to now nearly 60% of England's secondary schools, we await further developments. As do Machin and Eyles, it seems;
The academies programme can be seen as the latest in a series of attempts to find innovative schooling strategies that boost the performance of state-maintained schools. Like Sweden and the US, the English education system is moving beyond the traditional state-maintained school. But compared with reforms in those countries, it is doing so on a scale and at a pace that are unprecedented. Whether the early successes of sponsored academies translate into success of the wider programme remains in doubt. What is clear is that the academies programme, and some aspects of its mode of operation, can offer important lessons regarding the optimal provision of state-maintained education.Lessons that the NEA and its wholly owned subsidiaries (including the Washington State Supreme Court) will have to work overtime to ignore.