I’m late to this but it’s still relevant. David Brooks’ recent column on the Harlem Children’s Zone occasioned a lively debate amongst the blogs about the methodology of the Doobie – Fryer study the column was based on (pdf) and whether or not Brooks overstated the results. This Q & E post has your key links to all that. But the debate really buried the policy lede here. There is a raging debate right now in education about whether or not and how much schools matter to student learning relative to other variables such as community, race, income and so forth. Through some natural experiments embedded in the HCZ design, this study offers some evidence that despite all the hoopla about HCZ, it’s the schools that actually matter most even in the HCZ model. In a policy debate that’s ultimately about hard choices on sequencing reforms and the political lift of holding schools accountable for serving students and where there are plenty of gambits designed to distract, that matters.