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Knowledge, Tests, and Fadeout in Educational Interventions

  • Elizabeth U. Cascio
  • Douglas O. Staiger

Educational interventions are often evaluated and compared on the basis of their impacts on test scores. Decades of research have produced two empirical regularities: interventions in later grades tend to have smaller effects than the same interventions in earlier grades, and the test score impacts of early educational interventions almost universally "fade out" over time. This paper explores whether these empirical regularities are an artifact of the common practice of rescaling test scores in terms of a student's position in a widening distribution of knowledge. If a standard deviation in test scores in later grades translates into a larger difference in knowledge, an intervention's effect on normalized test scores may fall even as its effect on knowledge does not. We evaluate this hypothesis by fitting a model of education production to correlations in test scores across grades and with college-going using both administrative and survey data. Our results imply that the variance in knowledge does indeed rise as children progress through school, but not enough for test score normalization to fully explain these empirical regularities.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18038.

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Date of creation: May 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18038
Note: CH ED LS
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  1. Kane, Thomas J. & Rockoff, Jonah E. & Staiger, Douglas O., 2008. "What does certification tell us about teacher effectiveness? Evidence from New York City," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 615-631, December.
  2. Elizabeth U. Cascio & Ethan G. Lewis, 2006. "Schooling and the Armed Forces Qualifying Test: Evidence from School-Entry Laws," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(2).
  3. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-95, October.
  4. Alan Krueger & Diane Whitmore, 1999. "The Effect of Attending a Small Class in the Early Grades on College-Test Taking and Middle School Test Results: Evidence from Project STAR," Working Papers 806, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  5. Kevin Lang, 2010. "Measurement Matters: Perspectives on Education Policy from an Economist and School Board Member," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 167-82, Summer.
  6. Jesse Rothstein, 2010. "Teacher Quality in Educational Production: Tracking, Decay, and Student Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 175-214, February.
  7. Timothy N. Bond & Kevin Lang, 2013. "The Evolution of the Black-White Test Score Gap in Grades K–3: The Fragility of Results," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(5), pages 1468-1479, December.
  8. John Cawley & James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 1999. "On Policies To Reward The Value Added By Educators," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 720-727, November.
  9. 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.
  10. Will Dobbie & Roland G. Fryer, 2011. "Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Increase Achievement among the Poor? Evidence from the Harlem Children's Zone," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 158-87, July.
  11. 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.
  12. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2008. "Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 14607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman, 2008. "Formulating, Identifying and Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
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