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Disruption, learning, and the heterogeneous benefits of smaller classes

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  • Graham McKee
  • Katharine Sims
  • Steven Rivkin

Abstract

Prior research suggests that the benefits from smaller classes may vary along multiple dimensions. In this paper we develop a flexible model of education production that incorporates the classroom-level time lost to disruption and the rate of learning during productive time as a function of teacher quality and individual propensity to acquire knowledge. We then investigate heterogeneity in class size effects by school poverty share, family income, teacher experience, and achievement percentile using data from Project STAR. We find that the benefits of small classes are consistently higher in schools with a larger low-income enrollment share. Conditional on school poverty share, we find little or no evidence that lower-income or lower-achieving students tend to realize larger benefits of smaller classes. Instead, we find that the return to smaller classes tends to increase with achievement regardless of school poverty share. Given the generally higher levels of disruption reported in higher poverty schools, this set of findings is consistent with, though not direct evidence of, the notion that reduced time lost to disruption is a primary mechanism through which smaller classes raise achievement and a compelling explanation for the empirical finding that class-size effects tend to be larger for lower-income children. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Graham McKee & Katharine Sims & Steven Rivkin, 2015. "Disruption, learning, and the heterogeneous benefits of smaller classes," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 48(3), pages 1267-1286, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:empeco:v:48:y:2015:i:3:p:1267-1286
    DOI: 10.1007/s00181-014-0810-1
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Justman, Moshe, 2018. "Randomized controlled trials informing public policy: Lessons from project STAR and class size reduction," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 167-174.
    2. Galina Besstremyannaya & Sergei Golovan, 2019. "Reconsideration of a simple approach to quantile regression for panel data: a comment on the Canay (2011) fixed effects estimator," Working Papers w0249, New Economic School (NES).
    3. 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.
    4. Sayem Ahmed & Hasin Md. Muhtasim Taqi & Yeasir Iqbal Farabi & Mohiuddin Sarker & Syed Mithun Ali & Bathrinath Sankaranarayanan, 2021. "Evaluation of Flexible Strategies to Manage the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Education Sector," Global Journal of Flexible Systems Management, Springer;Global Institute of Flexible Systems Management, vol. 22(2), pages 81-105, December.
    5. Galina Besstremyannaya & Sergei Golovan, 2019. "Reconsideration of a simple approach to quantile regression for panel data: a comment on the Canay (2011) fixed effects estimator," Working Papers w0249, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economics of education; Education; Class size; Heterogeneous benefits; I20; I21; I28; H41;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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