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Vouchers, Public School Response, And The Role Of Incentives: Evidence From Florida


In this paper, I analyze the behavior of public schools facing vouchers. The literature on the effects of voucher programs on public schools typically focuses on student and mean school scores. This paper tries to go inside the black box to investigate some of the ways in which schools facing the threat of vouchers in Florida behaved. Under a 1999 program, Florida schools earning an "F" grade for the first time were exposed to the threat of vouchers, but did not face vouchers unless and until they got a second "F" within the next three years. Exploiting the institutional details of this program, I analyze the incentives built into the system and investigate the behavior of the public schools facing these incentives. I find strong evidence that they did respond to incentives. Using highly disaggregated school-level data, a difference-in-differences estimation strategy as well as a regression discontinuity analysis, I find that the threatened schools tended to focus more on students below the minimum criteria cutoffs rather than equally on all; interestingly, however, this improvement did not come at the expense of higher performing students. Second, consistent with incentives, the schools focused on writing rather than reading and math. These results are robust to controlling for differential pre-program trends, changes in demographic compositions, mean reversion, and sorting and have important policy implications.

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Article provided by Western Economic Association International in its journal Economic Inquiry.

Volume (Year): 51 (2013)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 500-526

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Handle: RePEc:bla:ecinqu:v:51:y:2013:i:1:p:500-526
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  1. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2007. "Can increasing private school participation and monetary loss in a voucher program affect public school performance? Evidence from Milwaukee," Staff Reports 300, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. David N. Figlio, 2005. "Testing, Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 11194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Figlio, David N. & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 2006. "Do accountability and voucher threats improve low-performing schools?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 239-255, January.
  4. David N. Figlio & Maurice E. Lucas, 2004. "What's in a Grade? School Report Cards and the Housing Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 591-604, June.
  5. Thomas J. Nechyba, 2003. "Introducing School Choice into Multidistrict Public School Systems," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 145-194 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Chakrabarti Rajashri, 2013. "Impact of Voucher Design on Public School Performance: Evidence from Florida and Milwaukee Voucher Programs," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 349-394, July.
  7. Randall Reback & Julie Berry Cullen, 2006. "Tinkering toward accolades: School gaming under a performance accountability system," Working Papers 0601, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
  8. Julie Berry Cullen, 1999. "The Impact of Fiscal Incentives on Student Disability Rates," NBER Working Papers 7173, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 843-877.
  10. Figlio, David N. & Winicki, Joshua, 2005. "Food for thought: the effects of school accountability plans on school nutrition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 381-394, February.
  11. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2002. "School Choice and School Productivity (or Could School Choice be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?)," NBER Working Papers 8873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. West, Martin R. & Peterson, Paul E., 2005. "The Efficacy of Choice Threats within School Accountability Systems: Results from Legislatively Induced Experiments," Working Paper Series rwp05-033, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  13. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:118:y:2003:i:3:p:843-877 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," NBER Working Papers 9413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Jacob, Brian A., 2005. "Accountability, incentives and behavior: the impact of high-stakes testing in the Chicago Public Schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 761-796, June.
  16. McMillan, Robert, 2004. "Competition, incentives, and public school productivity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1871-1892, August.
  17. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  18. Kenneth Y. Chay & Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola, 2005. "The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions That Use Test Scores to Rank Schools," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1237-1258, September.
  19. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2003. "School Choice and School Productivity. Could School Choice Be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 287-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Martin R. West & Paul E. Peterson, 2006. "The Efficacy of Choice Threats Within School Accountability Systems: Results from Legislatively Induced Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages C46-C62, 03.
  21. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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