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Do reductions in class size raise students’ test scores? Evidence from population variation in Minnesota's elementary schools

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  • Cho, Hyunkuk
  • Glewwe, Paul
  • Whitler, Melissa

Abstract

Many U.S. states and cities spend substantial funds to reduce class size, especially in elementary (primary) school. Estimating the impact of class size on learning is complicated, since children in small and large classes differ in many observed and unobserved ways. This paper uses a method of Hoxby (2000) to assess the impact of class size on the test scores of grade 3 and 5 students in Minnesota. The method exploits random variation in class size due to random variation in births in school and district catchment areas. The results show that reducing class size increases mathematics and reading test scores in Minnesota. Yet these impacts are very small; a decrease of ten students would increase test scores by only 0.04–0.05 standard deviations (of the distribution of test scores). Thus class size reductions are unlikely to lead to sizeable increases in student learning.

Suggested Citation

  • Cho, Hyunkuk & Glewwe, Paul & Whitler, Melissa, 2012. "Do reductions in class size raise students’ test scores? Evidence from population variation in Minnesota's elementary schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 77-95.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:31:y:2012:i:3:p:77-95
    DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2012.01.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Hægeland, Torbjørn & Raaum, Oddbjørn & Salvanes, Kjell G., 2012. "Pennies from heaven? Using exogenous tax variation to identify effects of school resources on pupil achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 601-614.
    2. Ilya Prakhov & Denis Sergienko, 2017. "Matching between Students and Universities: What are the Sources of Inequalities of Access to Higher Education?," HSE Working papers WP BRP 45/EDU/2017, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    3. Mike Gilraine & Hugh Macartney & Rob McMillan, 2018. "Education Reform in General Equilibrium: Evidence from California’s Class Size Reduction," Working Papers tecipa-594, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    4. Kudo, Yuya & Shonchoy, Abu S. & Takahashi, Kazushi, 2015. "Impacts of solar lanterns in geographically challenged locations : experimental evidence from Bangladesh," IDE Discussion Papers 502, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    5. Matthew M. Chingos & Kenneth A. Couch, 2013. "Class Size and Student Outcomes: Research and Policy Implications," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(2), pages 411-438, March.
    6. Michael Gilraine & Hugh Macartney & Robert McMillan, 2018. "Education Reform in General Equilibrium: Evidence from California's Class Size Reduction," NBER Working Papers 24191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Moshe Justman, 2016. "Economic Research and Education Policy: Project STAR and Class Size Reduction," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2016n37, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    8. Thomas, Jaime L., 2012. "Combination classes and educational achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1058-1066.
    9. Stephen Gibbons & Sandra McNally, 2013. "The Effects of Resources Across School Phases: A Summary of Recent Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp1226, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    10. Michel Berthélemy & Petyo Bonev & Damien Dussaux & Magnus Söderberg, 2017. "Methods for strengthening a weak instrument in the case of a persistent treatment," GRI Working Papers 265, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    11. Polcyn, Jan, 2017. "Edukacja jako dobro publiczne - próba kwantyfikacji
      [Education as a public good – an attempt at quantification]
      ," MPRA Paper 76606, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2017.
    12. Jones, Sam, 2013. "Class Size Versus Class Composition: What Matters for Learning in East Africa?," WIDER Working Paper Series 065, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    13. Chingos, Matthew M., 2012. "The impact of a universal class-size reduction policy: Evidence from Florida's statewide mandate," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 543-562.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Class size; Student learning; Test scores; Elementary schools; Minnesota;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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