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What is the Tradeoff Between Smaller Classes and Teacher Quality?

  • Christopher Jepsen
  • Steven Rivkin

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9205.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9205.

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Date of creation: Sep 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9205
Note: ED
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  1. Flyer, F. & Rosen, S., 1994. "The New Economics of Teachers and Education," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 94-1, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  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. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. Heckman, James, 2001. "Accounting for Heterogeneity, Diversity and General Equilibrium in Evaluating Social Programmes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(475), pages F654-99, November.
  6. Alan Krueger, 1997. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," Working Papers 758, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Steven G. Rivkin & Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain, 2005. "Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(2), pages 417-458, 03.
  8. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1999. "Using Maimonides' Rule To Estimate The Effect Of Class Size On Scholastic Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 533-575, May.
  9. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2000. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," NBER Working Papers 7831, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects Of Class Size On Student Achievement: New Evidence From Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285, November.
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