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Do reductions in class size raise students’ test scores? Evidence from population variation in Minnesota's elementary schools

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  • Cho, Hyunkuk
  • Glewwe, Paul
  • Whitler, Melissa

Abstract

Many U.S. states and cities spend substantial funds to reduce class size, especially in elementary (primary) school. Estimating the impact of class size on learning is complicated, since children in small and large classes differ in many observed and unobserved ways. This paper uses a method of Hoxby (2000) to assess the impact of class size on the test scores of grade 3 and 5 students in Minnesota. The method exploits random variation in class size due to random variation in births in school and district catchment areas. The results show that reducing class size increases mathematics and reading test scores in Minnesota. Yet these impacts are very small; a decrease of ten students would increase test scores by only 0.04–0.05 standard deviations (of the distribution of test scores). Thus class size reductions are unlikely to lead to sizeable increases in student learning.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics of Education Review.

Volume (Year): 31 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 77-95

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:31:y:2012:i:3:p:77-95

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/econedurev

Related research

Keywords: Class size; Student learning; Test scores; Elementary schools; Minnesota;

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References

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  1. Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "Experimental Estimates Of Education Production Functions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 497-532, May.
  2. Alan B. Krueger, 2003. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages F34-F63, February.
  3. 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.
  4. Bryan S. Graham, 2008. "Identifying Social Interactions Through Conditional Variance Restrictions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(3), pages 643-660, 05.
  5. Hanushek, Eric A., 2006. "School Resources," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  6. Jinyong Hahn & Jerry Hausman, 2003. "Weak Instruments: Diagnosis and Cures in Empirical Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 118-125, May.
  7. Akerhielm, Karen, 1995. "Does class size matter?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 229-241, September.
  8. Steven G. Rivkin & Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain, 2005. "Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 417-458, 03.
  9. Hanushek, Eric A. & Rivkin, Steven G., 2006. "Teacher Quality," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  10. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects Of Class Size On Student Achievement: New Evidence From Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285, November.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Thomas, Jaime L., 2012. "Combination classes and educational achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1058-1066.
  2. Chingos, Matthew M., 2012. "The impact of a universal class-size reduction policy: Evidence from Florida's statewide mandate," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 543-562.
  3. Hægeland, Torbjørn & Raaum, Oddbjørn & Salvanes, Kjell Gunnar, 2007. "Pennies from heaven - Using exogenous tax variation to identify effects of school resources on pupil achievement," Memorandum 18/2007, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  4. Jones, Sam, 2013. "Class size versus class composition: What matters for learning in East Africa?," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  5. Matthew M. Chingos & Kenneth A. Couch, 2013. "Class Size and Student Outcomes: Research and Policy Implications," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(2), pages 411-438, 03.
  6. Stephen Gibbons & Sandra McNally, 2013. "The Effects of Resources Across School Phases: A Summary of Recent Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp1226, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.

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