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Inside Decentralization: How Three Central American School-based Management Reforms Affect Student Learning Through Teacher Incentives


  • Ilana Umansky
  • Emiliana Vegas


Despite decentralization reforms of education systems worldwide, there is little empirical evidence about the processes through which decentralization can improve student learning. Proponents theorize that devolving decisionmaking authority to the local level can improve communication, transparency, and accountability, making teachers and school principals more responsible for better performance and more capable of bringing it about. Yet some research has shown that decentralization can increase inequality and reduce learning for disadvantaged students. This article reports on retrospective evaluations of three Central American school-based management reforms. Using matching techniques, these evaluations investigate whether the reforms enhanced student learning and how they affected management processes and teacher characteristics and behaviors. The evidence indicates that all three reforms resulted in substantive changes in management and teacher characteristics and behavior and that these changes explain significant portions of resultant changes in student learning. This article contributes to the understanding of how decentralization reforms can improve learning and shows how education reforms, even when not conceptualized as affecting teacher incentives, can generate important changes for teachers that, in turn, affect student learning. Copyright The Author 2007. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / the world bank . All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:, Oxford University Press.

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  • Ilana Umansky & Emiliana Vegas, 2007. "Inside Decentralization: How Three Central American School-based Management Reforms Affect Student Learning Through Teacher Incentives," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 22(2), pages 197-215, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:wbrobs:v:22:y:2007:i:2:p:197-215

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Belser, Patrick, 2000. "Vietnam - on the road to labor-intensive growth ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2389, The World Bank.
    2. Belser, Patrick & Rama, Martin, 2001. "State ownership and labor redundancy - estimates based on enterprise-level data from Vietnam," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2599, The World Bank.
    3. Appleton, Simon & Hoddinott, John & Krishnan, Pramila, 1999. "The Gender Wage Gap in Three African Countries," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 289-312, January.
    4. Rama, Martin, 1999. "Public Sector Downsizing: An Introduction," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(1), pages 1-22, January.
    5. Ariel Fiszbein, 1994. "An opportunity cost approach to redundancy compensation: an application to Sri Lanka," Estudios de Economia, University of Chile, Department of Economics, vol. 21(esp Year ), pages 113-126, November.
    6. Rama, Martin & MacIsaac, Donna, 1999. "Earnings and Welfare after Downsizing: Central Bank Employees in Ecuador," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(1), pages 89-116, January.
    7. Assaad, Ragui, 1999. "Matching Severance Payments with Worker Losses in the Egyptian Public Sector," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(1), pages 117-153, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elizabeth M. King & Peter F. Orazem & Elizabeth M. Paterno, 2016. "Promotion with and without Learning: Effects on Student Enrollment and Dropout Behavior," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 30(3), pages 580-602.

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