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Vouchers, Public School Response and the Role of Incentives: Evidence from Florida

  • Rajashri Chakrabarti

    (Harvard University)

In this paper, I analyze the behavior of public schools facing vouchers. The literature on the effect of voucher programs on public schools typically focuses on student and mean school scores. This paper tries to go inside the black box to investigate some of the ways in which schools facing the threat of vouchers in Florida behaved. Florida schools getting an 'F' grade are exposed to the threat of vouchers, while vouchers are implemented if they get another 'F' grade in the next three years. Exploiting the institutional details of the 1999 program, I analyze the incentives built into the system and investigate whether the threatened public schools behaved strategically to respond to incentives. There is strong evidence that they did respond to incentives. Using highly disaggregated school level data, a difference- in-differences estimation strategy as well as a regression discontinuity analysis, I find that the threatened schools tended to focus more on students below the minimum criteria cutoffs rather than equally on all, but interestingly, this improvement did not come at the expense of higher performing students. Second, consistent with incentives, they focused mostly on writing rather than reading and math. Finally, consistent with substantial costs associated with such reclassification during that period, there is not much evidence of relative reclassification of low performing students in to special education categories exempt from the calculation of grades. These results are robust to controlling for differential pre-program trends, changes in demographic compositions, mean reversion and sorting. These findings have important policy implications and subsequent grading rule changes in Florida suggest that these policy changes have been a response to public school behavior.

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/pe/papers/0512/0512002.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Public Economics with number 0512002.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: 02 Dec 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0512002
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 56
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://128.118.178.162

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  1. Thomas J. Nechyba, 2003. "Introducing School Choice into Multidistrict Public School Systems," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 145-194 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David N. Figlio & Cecilia Rouse, 2005. "Do Accountability and Voucher Threats Improve Low-Performing Schools?," NBER Working Papers 11597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Martin R. West & Paul E. Peterson, 2006. "The Efficacy of Choice Threats Within School Accountability Systems: Results from Legislatively Induced Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages C46-C62, 03.
  4. Kenneth Chay & Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola, 2003. "The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions that Use Test Scores to Rank Schools," Discussion Papers 0304-10, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  5. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2002. "School Choice and School Productivity (or Could School Choice be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?)," NBER Working Papers 8873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Cullen, Julie Berry, 2003. "The impact of fiscal incentives on student disability rates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(7-8), pages 1557-1589, August.
  7. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2005. "Can Increasing Private School Participation and Monetary Loss in a Voucher Program Affect Public School Performance? Evidence from Milwaukee," Public Economics 0512003, EconWPA.
  8. McMillan, Robert, 2004. "Competition, incentives, and public school productivity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1871-1892, August.
  9. Chakrabarti Rajashri, 2013. "Impact of Voucher Design on Public School Performance: Evidence from Florida and Milwaukee Voucher Programs," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 349-394, July.
  10. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," NBER Working Papers 9413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  13. Jacob, Brian A., 2005. "Accountability, incentives and behavior: the impact of high-stakes testing in the Chicago Public Schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 761-796, June.
  14. Figlio, David N. & Winicki, Joshua, 2005. "Food for thought: the effects of school accountability plans on school nutrition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 381-394, February.
  15. West, Martin R. & Peterson, Paul E., 2005. "The Efficacy of Choice Threats within School Accountability Systems: Results from Legislatively Induced Experiments," Working Paper Series rwp05-033, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  16. Randall Reback & Julie Berry Cullen, 2006. "Tinkering toward accolades: School gaming under a performance accountability system," Working Papers 0601, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
  17. David N. Figlio, 2005. "Testing, Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 11194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2003. "School Choice and School Productivity. Could School Choice Be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 287-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. David N. Figlio & Maurice E. Lucas, 2004. "What's in a Grade? School Report Cards and the Housing Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 591-604, June.
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