Do school inspections improve primary school performance?
Inspectors from the Dutch Inspectorate of Education inspect primary schools, write inspection reports on each inspected school, and make recommendations as to how each school can improve. We test whether these inspections result in better school performance. Using a fixed-effects model, we find evidence that school inspections do lead to measurably better school performance. Our assessment of school performance is based on the Cito test scores of pupils in their final year of primary school. Therefore school improvement means increased Cito test scores. The results indicate that the Cito test scores improve by 2% to 3% of a standard deviation of the test score in the two years following an inspection. The arithmetic component shows the largest improvement. Our estimates are the result of an analysis of two types of school inspections performed between 1999 and 2002, where one type was more intensive than the other. In one fixed-effects model, we assume that the effect of the two types of school inspections was the same. We cannot, however, be sure that the estimates from this model are free from the problem of endogeneity bias. Therefore, we also obtain estimates for a less restrictive fixed-effects model. In this less restrictive model, we make use of the fact that a subset of the more intensive school inspections occurs at a representative selection of primary schools. Based on this smaller, essentially randomly drawn sample of schools, we can be confident that these estimates of the effect of school inspections are free from endogeneity bias. Due to the limited number of inspections at randomly selected schools, these estimates are not significantly different from zero. These estimates are, however, consistent with the effects found based on all inspections. The less restrictive model also allows for the effect of the more intensive inspections to differ from that for the less intensive ones. We find evidence that the more intensive inspections are responsible for larger increases in the Cito test scores than the less intensive ones.
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