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Research Questions

  1. How did the expansion of grades K–5, expansion and relocation of grades 6–8, and creation of Montour High School impact the achievement of continuing Montour students?
  2. How did the achievement of Propel Montour expansion students compare with that of continuing Propel Montour students and non-Montour Propel students?
  3. Were there changes in the attendance and student disciplinary outcomes of continuing Montour students during the expansion period relative to non-Montour Propel students?
  4. How did the attendance and student disciplinary actions of Montour expansion students compare with those of continuing Propel Montour students and non-Montour Propel students?

In fall 2017, Propel Schools — a small, regional charter school network in southwestern Pennsylvania — initiated the expansion of one of its schools, Propel Montour. Originally a single kindergarten through 8th grade (K–8) school with two classrooms per grade, Montour added a new high school and expanded into separate elementary and middle schools over four years, adding a classroom to each grade. These changes were expected to increase enrollment by about 500 students over the four years of the expansion. Broadly, the goal of the expansion was to replicate the Propel model to assist educationally disadvantaged students to meet high academic and behavioral standards.

Therefore, the authors investigated the Propel Montour expansion and its impact on academic and behavioral outcomes for both continuing students (i.e., students who attended Propel Montour prior to and during the expansion) and expansion students (i.e., students who newly enrolled at Propel Montour during the expansion). They used difference-in-difference and doubly robust regression models to examine the academic and behavioral experiences of both continuing and expansion Montour students from fall 2017 through the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in spring 2020.

The authors did not find evidence that the academic and behavioral experiences of either the continuing or expansion students fell below what would have been expected absent expansion.

Key Findings

  • The authors did not find evidence of any adverse impacts of the expansion of Propel Montour on the academic or behavioral outcomes of continuing Montour students who were enrolled prior to expansion.
  • The authors did not find evidence that students enrolling at Propel Montour during the Montour expansion experienced weaker academic or behavioral outcomes than comparable Propel peers.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Propel Schools Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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