Funding, School Specialization, and Test Scores: An Evaluation of the Specialist Schools Policy Using Matching Models
We evaluate the causal association between the specialist schools policy, a UK reform that has increased funding and encouraged secondary school specialization in particular subjects, and pupils' test score outcomes. Using the National Pupil Database, we estimate difference-in-difference matching models. We find a small, positive, and statistically significant causal effect on test scores at age 16. Pupils from poorer social backgrounds benefited more than pupils from richer backgrounds; pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds benefited less. We disentangle the funding effect from a specialization effect, which yields a relatively large proportionate improvement in test scores in particular subjects.
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