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The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions That Use Test Scores to Rank Schools

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  • Kenneth Y. Chay
  • Patrick J. McEwan
  • Miguel Urquiola

Abstract

Many programs reward or penalize schools based on students' average performance. Mean reversion is a potentially serious hindrance to the evaluation of such interventions. Chile's 900 Schools Program (P-900) allocated resources based on cutoffs in schools' mean test scores. This paper shows that transitory noise in average scores and mean reversion lead conventional estimation approaches to overstate the impacts of such programs. It further shows how a regression-discontinuity design can be used to control for reversion biases. It concludes that P-900 had significant effects on test score gains, albeit much smaller than is widely believed.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 95 (2005)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 1237-1258

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:95:y:2005:i:4:p:1237-1258

Note: DOI: 10.1257/0002828054825529
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  1. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2001. "Improving School Accountability Measures," NBER Working Papers 8156, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2002. "The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
  3. Joshua Angrist & Alan Krueger, 1998. "Empirical Strategies in Labor Economics," Working Papers 780, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Paul Glewwe & Nauman Ilias & Micheal Kremer, 2003. "Teacher incentives," Natural Field Experiments 00257, The Field Experiments Website.
  5. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2002. "The Impact of Teacher Training on Student Achievement: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from School Reform Efforts in Chicago," NBER Working Papers 8916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Orley Ashenfelter & David Card, 1984. "Using the Longitudinal Structure of Earnings to Estimate the Effect of Training Programs," Working Papers 554, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Eric A. Hanushek & Margaret E. Raymond, 2002. "Improving educational quality: how best to evaluate our schools," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 47(Jun), pages 193-247.
  8. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2002. "Remedial Education and Student Achievement: A Regression-Discontinuity Analysis," NBER Working Papers 8918, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Urquiola, Miguel, 2001. "Identifying class size effects in developing countries : evidence from rural schools in Bolivia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2711, The World Bank.
  10. Kenneth Chay & Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola, 2003. "The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions that Use Test Scores to Rank Schools," Discussion Papers 0304-10, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  11. Jonathan Guryan, 2001. "Does Money Matter? Regression-Discontinuity Estimates from Education Finance Reform in Massachusetts," NBER Working Papers 8269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Ashenfelter, Orley C, 1978. "Estimating the Effect of Training Programs on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(1), pages 47-57, February.
  13. John H. Tyler & Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett, 2000. "Estimating The Labor Market Signaling Value Of The GED," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 431-468, May.
  14. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Miguel Urquiola, 2003. "When Schools Compete, How Do They Compete? An Assessment of Chile's Nationwide School Voucher Program," NBER Working Papers 10008, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Victor Lavy, 2002. "Evaluating the Effect of Teachers' Group Performance Incentives on Pupil Achievement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1286-1317, December.
  16. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1999. "Using Maimonides' Rule To Estimate The Effect Of Class Size On Scholastic Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 533-575, May.
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