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The Causal Effect of School Reform: Evidence from California's Quality Education Investment Act


  • Paul Burkander


Beginning in the 2007-08 school year, California's Quality Education Investment Act required schools selected via lottery to institute reforms including class size reduction, increased average teacher experience, and extra professional training. The act provided additional per-pupil funding for schools to meet these requirements. Conditional on known probabilities of selection, which differed across schools, treatment is uncorrelated with potential outcomes, allowing for non-parametric identification of the causal effect by inverse probability weighting. In the first fully-funded year of the program, math scores in 4th grade increased by 0.32 SD in the population of California school-grade averages, and by the second fully-funded year 5th grade math scores improved by 0.36 SD. By the third fully-funded year of the program, math scores in 2nd grade were 0.28 SD higher in the distribution of California school-grade averages, and 0.27 SD higher in 3rd grade. Selected schools did not increase teacher experience, and had 4 to 4.4 fewer students in the first fully-funded year in 4th and 5th$ grade. In kindergarten through 3rd grade class sizes were reduced later and less dramatically, by 3 to 4 students by the third fully-funded year, due primarily to unselected schools exiting California's previous class size reduction program. The timing of class size reductions and student achievement gains suggests class size was the driving factor.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Burkander, 2013. "The Causal Effect of School Reform: Evidence from California's Quality Education Investment Act," 2013 Papers pbu326, Job Market Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:jmp:jm2013:pbu326

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard K. Crump & V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Oscar A. Mitnik, 2009. "Dealing with limited overlap in estimation of average treatment effects," Biometrika, Biometrika Trust, vol. 96(1), pages 187-199.
    2. David J. Deming & Sarah Cohodes & Jennifer Jennings & Christopher Jencks, 2016. "School Accountability, Postsecondary Attainment, and Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(5), pages 848-862, December.
    3. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Nathaniel Hilger & Emmanuel Saez & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Danny Yagan, 2011. "How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project Star," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(4), pages 1593-1660.
    4. Nathan Barrett & J. S. Butler & Eugenia F. Toma, 2012. "Do Less Effective Teachers Choose Professional Development Does It Matter?," Evaluation Review, , vol. 36(5), pages 346-374, October.
    5. Dieterle, Steven G., 2015. "Class-size reduction policies and the quality of entering teachers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 35-47.
    6. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Jonah E. Rockoff, 2011. "The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood," NBER Working Papers 17699, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. 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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    JEL classification:

    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets


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