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

  • RAJASHRI CHAKRABARTI

In this paper, I analyze the behavior of public schools facing vouchers. The literature on the effect 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. Florida schools getting an 'F' grade are exposed to the threat of vouchers, while vouchers are implemented if they get another 'F' grade in the next three years. Exploiting the institutional details of the 1999 program, I analyze the incentives built into the system and investigate whether the threatened public schools behaved strategically to respond to incentives. There is 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, but interestingly, this improvement did not come at the expense of higher performing students. Second, consistent with incentives, they focused mostly on writing rather than reading and math. Finally, consistent with substantial costs associated with such reclassification during that period, there is not much evidence of relative reclassification of low performing students in to special education categories exempt from the calculation of grades. These results are robust to controlling for differential pre-program trends, changes in demographic compositions, mean reversion and sorting. These findings have important policy implications and subsequent grading rule changes in Florida suggest that these policy changes have been a response to public school behavior.

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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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 14(1), pages 349-394, July.
  4. 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.
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  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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  19. Julie Berry Cullen, 1999. "The Impact of Fiscal Incentives on Student Disability Rates," NBER Working Papers 7173, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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