How should we treat under-performing schools? A regression discontinuity analysis of school inspections in England
School inspections are an important part of the accountability framework for education in England. In this paper we use a panel of schools to evaluate the effect of a school failing its inspection. We collect a decade’s worth of data on how schools are judged across a very large range of sub-criteria, alongside an overall judgement of effectiveness. We use this data within a fuzzy regression discontinuity design to model the impact of ‘just’ failing the inspection, relative to the impact of ‘just’ passing. This analysis is implemented using a time-series of school performance and pupil background data. Our results suggest that schools only just failing do see an improvement in scores over the following two to three years. The effect size is moderate to large at around 10% of a pupil-level standard deviation in test scores. We also show that this improvement occurs in core compulsory subjects, suggesting that this is not all the result of course entry gaming on the part of schools. There is little positive impact on lower ability pupils, with equally large effects for those in the middle and top end of the ability distribution.
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