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Do High Grading Standards Affect Student Performance?

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  • David N. Figlio
  • Maurice E. Lucas

Abstract

This paper explores the effects of high grading standards on student test performance in elementary school. While high standards have been advocated by policy-makers, business groups, and teacher unions, very little is known about their effects on outcomes. Most of the existing research on standards is theoretical, generally finding that standards have mixed effects on students. However, very little empirical work has to date been completed on this topic. This paper provides the first empirical evidence on the effects of grading standards, measured at the teacher level. Using an exceptionally rich set of data including every third, fourth, and fifth grader in a large school district over four years, we match students' test score gains and disciplinary problems to teacher-level grading standards. In models in which we control for student-level fixed effects, we find substantial evidence that higher grading standards benefit students. We find that these effects are not uniform: High-achieving students apparently benefit most from high standards when in a relatively low-achieving class, and low-achieving students benefit most from high standards when in a relatively high-achieving class.

Suggested Citation

  • David N. Figlio & Maurice E. Lucas, 2000. "Do High Grading Standards Affect Student Performance?," NBER Working Papers 7985, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7985
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Steven G. Rivkin & Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain, 2005. "Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 417-458, March.
    2. Betts, Julian R, 1998. "The Impact of Educational Standards on the Level and Distribution of Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 266-275, March.
    3. Nick Feltovich & Richmond Harbaugh & Ted To, 2002. "Too Cool for School? Signalling and Countersignalling," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 630-649, Winter.
    4. Betts, Julian R. & Grogger, Jeff, 2003. "The impact of grading standards on student achievement, educational attainment, and entry-level earnings," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 343-352, August.
    5. Moulton, Brent R., 1986. "Random group effects and the precision of regression estimates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 385-397, August.
    6. Costrell, Robert M, 1994. "A Simple Model of Educational Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 956-971, September.
    7. Dan D. Goldhaber & Dominic J. Brewer, 1997. "Why Don't Schools and Teachers Seem to Matter? Assessing the Impact of Unobservables on Educational Productivity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(3), pages 505-523.
    8. Becker, William E. & Rosen, Sherwin, 1992. "The learning effect of assessment and evaluation in high school," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 107-118, June.
    9. Lillard, Dean R. & DeCicca, Philip P., 2001. "Higher standards, more dropouts? Evidence within and across time," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 459-473, October.
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    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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