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What a difference a good school makes! Persistence in academic performance and the impact of school quality

Author

Listed:
  • Marisa von Fintel

    () (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)

  • Servaas van der Berg

    () (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)

Abstract

In this paper we utilise a unique longitudinal school dataset from the Western Cape province of South Africa. We first explore the degree of persistence in the academic performance of learners over time in order to illustrate the importance of early detection of poor performance within the system. Thereafter, we make use of the longitudinal nature of the dataset in order to estimate the impact of school quality on academic performance following a fixed effects approach. We find that moving from a weaker school to a top performing school (a school within the top 20% of the performance distribution) is associated with an increase of 28% of a standard deviation in performance in mathematics, which translates to almost 1 additional year of education. For language, the impact is smaller at 6% of a standard deviation. However, this grows to 12% of a standard deviation for the sample of black learners, who might benefit the most from moving to a high performing school where the language used for instruction in all other subjects is taught well. These findings have important policy conclusions within the South African context, where school quality is heterogeneous and the weak performance of schools at the bottom of the performance distribution contribute to the perpetuation of poverty over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Marisa von Fintel & Servaas van der Berg, 2017. "What a difference a good school makes! Persistence in academic performance and the impact of school quality," Working Papers 07/2017, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics, revised 2017.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers283
    as

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    File URL: https://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2017/wp072017/wp072017.3.pdf
    File Function: Revised version (version 3), 2017
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hanushek, Eric A. & Kain, John F. & Rivkin, Steven G. & Branch, Gregory F., 2007. "Charter school quality and parental decision making with school choice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(5-6), pages 823-848, June.
    2. Joshua D. Angrist & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2013. "Explaining Charter School Effectiveness," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(4), pages 1-27, October.
    3. Adrienne M. Lucas & Isaac M. Mbiti, 2014. "Effects of School Quality on Student Achievement: Discontinuity Evidence from Kenya," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 234-263, July.
    4. Tahir Andrabi & Jishnu Das & Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Tristan Zajonc, 2011. "Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 29-54, July.
    5. Nicholas Spaull & Janeli Kotze, 2014. "Starting Behind and Staying Behind in South Africa: The case of insurmountable learning deficits in mathematics," Working Papers 27/2014, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    6. Marisa Coetzee, 2014. "School quality and the performance of disadvantaged learners in South Africa," Working Papers 22/2014, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    7. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Michael Kremer, 2006. "Long-Term Educational Consequences of Secondary School Vouchers: Evidence from Administrative Records in Colombia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 847-862, June.
    8. Debra Shepherd, 2013. "A question of efficiency: decomposing South African reading test scores using PIRLS 2006," Working Papers 20/2013, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    9. Caroline M. Hoxby & Sonali Murarka, 2009. "Charter Schools in New York City: Who Enrolls and How They Affect Their Students' Achievement," NBER Working Papers 14852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Chris van Wyk & Anderson Gondwe & Pierre de Villiers, 2017. "Learner flow through patterns in the Western Cape using CEMIS datasets from 2007 to 2014: A longitudinal cohort analysis," Working Papers 02/2017, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    School quality; school choice; longitudinal data; South Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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