School autonomy and educational performance: within-country evidence
This paper shows the value of school autonomy for educational performance. To fully capture the informational advantage of local actors, we define school autonomy as the operational empowerment of the principals and teachers. The Flemish secondary school system in Belgium is analyzed as it is has a long history of educational school autonomy, but considerable variation between schools in school staff empowerment. Combining detailed school level and pupil level data from the PISA 2006 study with a semiparametric hierarchical model, we find strong indications that operational school autonomy is associated with high educational performance if appropriate accountability systems are active. Sensitivity tests show that both low and high-performers benefit from this kind of school autonomy.
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