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School Structure, School Autonomy and the Tail

  • Stephen Machin
  • Olmo Silva
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    In this paper, we survey the UK-based literature on school structures and school autonomy to identify settings in which alternative and more autonomous school arrangements can improve the educational attainments of pupils in the bottom tail of the achievement distribution. We also present new evidence on the effect of school academies on the age-16 GCSE attainment of students of different abilities up to 2009, before the Coalition Government changed the nature of the Labour academy programme. Within the UK education system, academies enjoy substantial autonomy in terms of management of their staff, taught curriculum, length of the school day and other aspects of their day-to-day functioning. Our results show that schools that converted to academies between 2002 and 2007 improved their overall age-16 GCSEs results by further raising the attainments of students in the top half of the ability distribution, and in particular pupils in the top 20% tail. Conversely, we find little evidence that academies helped pupils in the bottom 10% and 20% of the ability distribution. Finally, we find little evidence that late converters (2008 and 2009) had any beneficial effects on pupils of any ability. We conclude our research by comparing the experience of UK academies to that of US charter schools and Swedish free schools, and by providing some insights into the reasons why UK academies did not serve 'the tail' as is the case for some US charter schools.

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    File URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/special/cepsp29.pdf
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    Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Special Papers with number 29.

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    Date of creation: Mar 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:cep:cepsps:29
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEPSP

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    1. Bradley, Steve & Taylor, Jim, 2002. "The Effect of the Quasi-market on the Efficiency-Equity Trade-Off in the Secondary School Sector," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(3), pages 295-314, July.
    2. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Joshua Angrist & Susan Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag Pathak, 2009. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters and Pilots," NBER Working Papers 15549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Simon Burgess & Brendon McConnell & Carol Propper & Deborah Wilson, 2004. "Sorting and Choice in English Secondary Schools," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 04/111, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    4. Simon Burgess & Adam Briggs & Brendon McConnell & Helen Slater, 2006. "School Choice in England: Background Facts," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 06/159, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    5. Simon Burgess & Carol Propper & Helen Slater & Deborah Wilson, 2005. "Who wins and who loses from school accountability? The distribution of educational gain in English secondary schools," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 05/128, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    6. Stephen Machin & James Vernoit, 2011. "Changing School Autonomy: Academy Schools and their Introduction to England's Education," CEE Discussion Papers 0123, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
    7. Steve Gibbons & Olmo Silva, 2006. "Faith Primary Schools: Better Schools or Better Pupils?," CEE Discussion Papers 0072, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
    8. Angrist, Joshua & Dynarski, Susan & Kane, Thomas J. & Pathak, Parag A. & Walters, Christopher R., 2011. "Who Benefits from KIPP?," IZA Discussion Papers 5690, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
    10. Bradley, Steve, et al, 2000. " Testing for Quasi-Market Forces in Secondary Education," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 62(3), pages 357-90, July.
    11. Caroline M. Hoxby & Sonali Murarka, 2009. "Charter Schools in New York City: Who Enrolls and How They Affect Their Students' Achievement," NBER Working Papers 14852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Sandstrom, F. Mikael & Bergstrom, Fredrik, 2005. "School vouchers in practice: competition will not hurt you," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 351-380, February.
    13. Rosalind Levacic, 2004. "Competition and the performance of english secondary schools: further evidence," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(2), pages 177-193.
    14. Will Dobbie & Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2009. "Are High Quality Schools Enough to Close the Achievement Gap? Evidence from a Social Experiment in Harlem," NBER Working Papers 15473, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Simon Burgess & Deborah Wilson & Jack Worth, 2010. "A natural experiment in school accountability: the impact of school performance information on pupil progress and sorting," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 10/246, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
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