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A strategic response to class size reduction: Combination classes and student achievement in California

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  • David Sims

    (Brigham Young University)

Abstract

The California class size reduction program provided schools with cash rewards for K-3 classes of 20 or fewer students. I show how program rules made it possible for schools to save money by using mixed-grade classes to meet class size reduction obligations while maintaining larger average class sizes. I also show that this smoothing of students across grades is associated with a significant test score gap for certain second and third grade students. My estimates suggest that class size reduction may lead to lower test scores for students placed in combination classes. Alternative explanations of teacher experience and credentialing changes cannot explain the test score pattern. This result spotlights both the underappreciated role of age heterogeneity in classroom learning and the difficulty of replicating the success of policy experiments in statewide reform. © 2008 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • David Sims, 2008. "A strategic response to class size reduction: Combination classes and student achievement in California," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(3), pages 457-478.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:27:y:2008:i:3:p:457-478
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.20353
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.20353
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    1. Edward P. Lazear, 2001. "Educational Production," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 777-803.
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    1. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:64:y:2018:i:c:p:144-164 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:aea:aejapp:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:216-49 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Michael J. Kottelenberg & Steven F. Lehrer, 2014. "Do the Perils of Universal Childcare Depend on the Child’s Age?," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 60(2), pages 338-365.
    4. Fredriksson, Peter & Öckert, Björn & Oosterbeek, Hessel, 2014. "Inside the Black Box of Class Size: Mechanisms, Behavioral Responses, and Social Background," IZA Discussion Papers 8019, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Jaime Thomas, 2011. "Combination Classes and Educational Achievement (Conference Paper)," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 4e18a31395b24c4f986071000, Mathematica Policy Research.
    6. Edwin Leuven & Marte Rønning, 2016. "Classroom Grade Composition and Pupil Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 1164-1192, June.
    7. Thomas, Jaime L., 2012. "Combination classes and educational achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1058-1066.
    8. Christopher Jepsen, 2015. "Class size: Does it matter for student achievement?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 190-190, September.
    9. 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.
    10. Sims, David P., 2009. "Crowding Peter to educate Paul: Lessons from a class size reduction externality," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 465-473, August.
    11. Joshua D. Angrist & Erich Battistin & Daniela Vuri, 2017. "In a Small Moment: Class Size and Moral Hazard in the Italian Mezzogiorno," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 216-249, October.
    12. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy & Jetson Leder-Luis & Adi Shany, 2017. "Maimonides Rule Redux," NBER Working Papers 23486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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.

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