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The Elite Illusion: Achievement Effects at Boston and New York Exam Schools

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  • Atila Abdulkadiroglu
  • Joshua D. Angrist
  • Parag A. Pathak

Abstract

Talented students compete fiercely for seats at Boston and New York exam schools. These schools are characterized by high levels of peer achievement and a demanding curriculum tailored to each district's highest achievers. While exam school students do very well in school, the question of whether an exam school education adds value relative to a regular public education remains open. We estimate the causal effect of exam school attendance using a regression-discontinuity design, reporting both parametric and non- parametric estimates. The outcomes studied here include scores on state standardized achievement tests, PSAT and SAT participation and scores, and AP scores. Our estimates show little effect of exam school offers on most students' achievement. We use two-stage least squares to convert reduced form estimates of the effects of exam school offers into estimates of peer and tracking effects, arguing that these appear to be unimportant in this context. Finally, we explore the external validity of RD estimates, arguing that as best we can tell, there is little effect of an exam school education on achievement even for the highest-ability marginal applicants and for applicants to the right of admissions cutoffs. On the other hand, a Boston exam school education seems to have a modest effect on high school English scores for minority applicants. A small group of 9th grade applicants also appears to do better on SAT Reasoning. These localized gains notwithstanding, the intense competition for exam school seats does not appear to be justified by improved learning for a broad set of students.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17264.

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Date of creation: Jul 2011
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Publication status: published as Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua Angrist & Parag Pathak, 2014. "The Elite Illusion: Achievement Effects at Boston and New York Exam Schools," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(1), pages 137-196, 01.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17264

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Cited by:
  1. Adrienne M. Lucas & Isaac M. Mbiti, 2014. "Effects of School Quality on Student Achievement: Discontinuity Evidence from Kenya," Working Papers, University of Delaware, Department of Economics 14-03, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  2. Julie Berry Cullen & Steven D. Levitt & Erin Robertson & Sally Sadoff, 2013. "What Can Be Done to Improve Struggling High Schools?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 133-52, Spring.
  3. repec:bri:cmpowp:13/323 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Sarah Cohodes & Joshua Goodman, . "Merit Aid, College Quality and College Completion: Massachusetts' Adams Scholarship as an In-Kind Subsidy," Working Paper 144201, Harvard University OpenScholar.
  5. Wiswall, Matthew & Stiefel, Leanna & Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Boccardo, Jessica, 2014. "Does attending a STEM high school improve student performance? Evidence from New York City," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 93-105.
  6. Kalena Cortes & Joshua Goodman & Takako Nomi, 2014. "Intensive Math Instruction and Educational Attainment: Long-Run Impacts of Double-Dose Algebra," NBER Working Papers 20211, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua Angrist & Parag Pathak, 2014. "The Elite Illusion: Achievement Effects at Boston and New York Exam Schools," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 82(1), pages 137-196, 01.
  8. Justine S. Hastings & Christopher A. Neilson & Seth D. Zimmerman, 2013. "Are Some Degrees Worth More than Others? Evidence from college admission cutoffs in Chile," NBER Working Papers 19241, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Christian Dustmann & Patrick A. Puhani & Uta Schönberg, 2012. "The Long-term Effects of School Quality on Labor Market Outcomes and Educational Attainment," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1208, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  10. Dustmann, Christian & Puhani, Patrick A. & Schönberg, Uta, 2014. "The Long-Term Effects of Early Track Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 7897, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. S. Pelin Akyol & Verónica Frisancho & Kala M. Krishna & Cemile Yavas, 2013. "Preferences, Selection, and Value Added: A Structural Approach Applied to Turkish Exam High Schools," CESifo Working Paper Series 4302, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. Simon Burgess & Matt Dickson & Lindsey Macmillan, 2014. "Selective Schooling Systems Increase Inequality," DoQSS Working Papers, Department of Quantitative Social Science - Institute of Education, University of London 14-09, Department of Quantitative Social Science - Institute of Education, University of London.
  13. Glenn Ellison & Ashley Swanson, 2012. "Heterogeneity in High Math Achievement Across Schools: Evidence from the American Mathematics Competitions," NBER Working Papers 18277, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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