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

Listed author(s):
  • 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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Article provided by World Bank Group in its journal The World Bank Research Observer.

Volume (Year): 22 (2007)
Issue (Month): 2 (August)
Pages: 197-215

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Handle: RePEc:oup:wbrobs:v:22:y:2007:i:2:p:197-215
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