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Peer Effects and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya

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  • Duflo, Esther
  • Dupas, Pascaline
  • Kremer, Michael

Abstract

This paper provides experimental evidence on the impact of tracking primary school students by initial achievement. In the presence of positive spillover effects from academically proficient peers, tracking may be beneficial for strong students but hurt weaker ones. However, tracking may help everybody if heterogeneous classes make it difficult to teach at a level appropriate to most students. We test these competing claims using a randomized evaluation in Kenya. One hundred and twenty one primary schools which all had a single grade one class received funds to hire an extra teacher to split that class into two sections. In 60 randomly selected schools, students were randomly assigned to sections. In the remaining 61 schools, students were ranked by prior achievement (measured by their first term grades), and the top and bottom halves of the class were assigned to different sections. After 18 months, students in tracking schools scored 0.14 standard deviations higher than students in non-tracking schools, and this effect persisted one year after the program ended. Furthermore, students at all levels of the distribution benefited from tracking. A regression discontinuity analysis shows that in tracking schools scores of students near the median of the pre-test distribution score are independent of whether they were assigned to the top or bottom section. In contrast, in non-tracking schools we find that on average, students benefit from having academically stronger peers. This suggests that tracking was beneficial because it helped teachers focus their teaching to a level appropriate to most students in the class.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7043.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7043

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Related research

Keywords: Development Economics; Education Economics; Primary School Tracking;

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References

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  1. Banerjee, Abhijit & Cole, Shawn & Duflo, Esther & Linden, Leigh, 2006. "Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India," CEPR Discussion Papers 5446, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Andrabi, Tahir & Das, Jishnu & Khwaja, Asim Ijaz & Zajonc, Tristan, 2009. "Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics," Working Paper Series rwp09-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. David S. Lyle, 2007. "Estimating and Interpreting Peer and Role Model Effects from Randomly Assigned Social Groups at West Point," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 289-299, May.
  4. Betts, Julian R. & Shkolnik, Jamie L., 1999. "Key difficulties in identifying the effects of ability grouping on student achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 21-26, February.
  5. Jörn-Steffen Pischke & Alan Manning, 2006. "Comprehensive versus Selective Schooling in England in Wales: What Do We Know?," NBER Working Papers 12176, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Sylvie Moulin & Michael Kremer & Paul Glewwe, 2009. "Many Children Left Behind? Textbooks and Test Scores in Kenya," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 112-35, January.
  7. Weili Ding & Steven Lehrer, 2005. "Do Peers Affect Student Achievement in China's Secondary Schools?," Working Papers 1047, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Peer Effects in the Classroom: Learning from Gender and Race Variation," NBER Working Papers 7867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Victor Lavy & M. Daniele Paserman & Analia Schlosser, 2008. "Inside the Black of Box of Ability Peer Effects: Evidence from Variation in the Proportion of Low Achievers in the Classroom," NBER Working Papers 14415, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Dan A. Black & Jose Galdo & Jeffrey A. Smith, 2007. "Evaluating the Worker Profiling and Reemployment Services System Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 104-107, May.
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