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What is the Tradeoff Between Smaller Classes and Teacher Quality?

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  • Christopher Jepsen
  • Steven Rivkin

Abstract

This paper investigates the effects of California's class size reduction program on teacher quality and student achievement in an effort to gain a comprehensive understanding of the impact of a large-scale decrease in class size. It uses year-to-year differences in class size generated by natural variation in enrollment and the state's class size reduction program to identify both the direct effects of class size reduction and accompanying changes in teacher quality. The results show that, all else equal, smaller classes raise third-grade mathematics and reading achievement, particularly for lower-income students. However, the expansion of the teaching force required to staff the additional classrooms appears to have led to a deterioration in average teacher quality in schools serving a predominantly black student body. This deterioration partially or, in some cases, fully offset the benefits of smaller classes, demonstrating the importance of considering all implications of any policy change.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Jepsen & Steven Rivkin, 2002. "What is the Tradeoff Between Smaller Classes and Teacher Quality?," NBER Working Papers 9205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9205
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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. Eric A. Hanushek & EJohn F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin, 2004. "Why Public Schools Lose Teachers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
    3. Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 497-532.
    4. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
    5. Heckman, James, 2001. "Accounting for Heterogeneity, Diversity and General Equilibrium in Evaluating Social Programmes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(475), pages 654-699, November.
    6. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects of Class Size on Student Achievement: New Evidence from Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285.
    7. Flyer, Fredrick & Rosen, Sherwin, 1997. "The New Economics of Teachers and Education," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 104-139, January.
    8. Hanushek, E.A. & Rivkin, S.G., 1994. "Understanding the 20th Century Explosion in U.S. School Costs," RCER Working Papers 388, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
    9. Krueger, Alan B & Whitmore, Diane M, 2001. "The Effect of Attending a Small Class in the Early Grades on College-Test Taking and Middle School Test Results: Evidence from Project STAR," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(468), pages 1-28, January.
    10. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1999. "Using Maimonides' Rule to Estimate the Effect of Class Size on Scholastic Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 533-575.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods

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