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Mission matters: The cost of small high schools revisited

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Listed:
  • Stiefel, Leanna
  • Schwartz, Amy Ellen
  • Iatarola, Patrice
  • Chellman, Colin C.

Abstract

With the financial support of several large foundations and the federal government, creating small schools has become a prominent high school reform strategy in many large American cities. While some research supports this strategy, little research assesses the relative costs of these smaller schools. We use data on over 200 New York City high schools, from 1996 through 2003, to estimate school cost functions relating per pupil expenditures to school size, controlling for school output and quality, student characteristics, and school organization. We find that the structure of costs differs across schools depending upon mission--comprehensive or themed. At their current levels of outputs, themed schools minimize per pupil costs at smaller enrollments than comprehensive schools, but these optimally sized themed schools also cost more per pupil than optimally sized comprehensive schools. We also find that both themed and comprehensive high schools at actual sizes are smaller than their optimal sizes.

Suggested Citation

  • Stiefel, Leanna & Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Iatarola, Patrice & Chellman, Colin C., 2009. "Mission matters: The cost of small high schools revisited," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 585-599, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:28:y:2009:i:5:p:585-599
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Colegrave, Andrew D. & Giles, Margaret J., 2008. "School cost functions: A meta-regression analysis," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 688-696, December.
    2. Chabotar, Kent John, 1989. "Measuring the costs of magnet schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 169-183, April.
    3. Kuziemko, Ilyana, 2006. "Using shocks to school enrollment to estimate the effect of school size on student achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 63-75, February.
    4. Foreman-Peck, James & Foreman-Peck, Lorraine, 2006. "Should schools be smaller? The size-performance relationship for Welsh schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 157-171, April.
    5. Andrews, Matthew & Duncombe, William & Yinger, John, 2002. "Revisiting economies of size in American education: are we any closer to a consensus?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 245-262, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tom Coupe & Anna Olefir & Juan Diego Alonso, 2011. "Is Optimization an Opportunity? An Assessment of the Impact of Class Size and School Size on the Performance of Ukrainian Secondary Schools," Discussion Papers 44, Kyiv School of Economics.
    2. Hédi Essid & Pierre Ouellette & Stéphane Vigeant, 2013. "Small is not that beautiful after all: measuring the scale efficiency of Tunisian high schools using a DEA-bootstrap method," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(9), pages 1109-1120, March.
    3. Schwartz, Amy Ellen & Stiefel, Leanna & Wiswall, Matthew, 2013. "Do small schools improve performance in large, urban districts? Causal evidence from New York City," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 27-40.

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