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Can Tracking Raise the Test Scores of High-Ability Minority Students?

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  • David Card
  • Laura Giuliano

Abstract

We study the impacts of a tracking program in a large urban school district that establishes separate “gifted/high achiever” (GHA) classrooms for fourth and fifth graders whenever there is at least one gifted student in a school-wide cohort. Since most schools have only a handful of gifted students per cohort, the majority of seats are filled by high achievers ranked by their scores in the previous year’s statewide tests. We use a rank-based regression discontinuity design, together with between-cohort comparisons of students at schools with small numbers of gifted children per cohort, to evaluate the effects of the tracking program. We find that participation in a GHA class leads to significant achievement gains for non-gifted participants, concentrated among black and Hispanic students, who gain 0.5 standard deviation units in fourth grade reading and math scores, with persistent effects to at least sixth grade. Importantly, we find no evidence of spillovers on non-participants. We also investigate a variety of channels that can explain these effects, including teacher quality and peer effects, but conclude that these features explain only a small fraction (10%) of the test score gains of minority participants in GHA classes. Instead we attribute the effects to a combination of factors like teacher expectations and negative peer pressure that lead high-ability minority students to under-perform in regular classes but are reduced in a GHA classroom environment.

Suggested Citation

  • David Card & Laura Giuliano, 2016. "Can Tracking Raise the Test Scores of High-Ability Minority Students?," NBER Working Papers 22104, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22104
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. David Card & Laura Giuliano, 2016. "Can Tracking Raise the Test Scores of High-Ability Minority Students?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2783-2816, October.
    2. João Firmino & Luís Catela Nunes & Ana Balcão Reis & Carmo Seabra, 2018. "Class composition and student achievement: Evidence from Portugal," FEUNL Working Paper Series wp624, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.
    3. Barrow, Lisa & Sartain , Lauren & de la Torre, Marisa, 2016. "The Role of Selective High Schools in Equalizing Educational Outcomes: Heterogeneous Effects by Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status," Working Paper Series WP-2016-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    4. repec:bpj:bejeap:v:17:y:2017:i:3:p:10:n:9 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:ecolet:v:159:y:2017:i:c:p:173-176 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Kiss David, 2017. "A Model about the Impact of Ability Grouping on Student Achievement," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 17(3), pages 1-10, July.
    7. Yu-Chin Hsu & Chung-Ming Kuan & Giorgio Teng-Yu Lo, 2017. "Quantile Treatment Effects in Regression Discontinuity Designs with Covariates," IEAS Working Paper : academic research 17-A009, Institute of Economics, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.
    8. Roller, Marcus & Steinberg, Daniel, 2017. "The Distributional Effects of Early School Stratification - Non-Parametric Evidence from Germany," Working papers 2017/20, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    9. Marcus Roller, Daniel Steinberg, 2017. "The Distributional Effects of Early School Stratification – Non-Parametric Evidence from Germany," Diskussionsschriften credresearchpaper19, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft - CRED.
    10. Booij, Adam S. & Haan, Ferry & Plug, Erik, 2017. "Can Gifted and Talented Education Raise the Academic Achievement of All High-Achieving Students?," IZA Discussion Papers 10836, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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