School Performance: Information, Choice and Interventions

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Hyatt Regency Chicago, Acapulco
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Petra Todd, University of Pennsylvania

The Effect of School Quality and District Administration on Housing Prices: Evidence From Changes in the Shelby County School System

Courtney Collins
,
Rhodes College
Erin Kaplan
,
Rhodes College

Abstract

In 2013, Memphis City Schools and neighboring Shelby County Schools consolidated into a unified system, ending decades of a dual city/county system and creating one of the largest districts in the nation. Subsequently, and after much legal controversy, six Memphis suburbs voted to create separate municipal districts for their residents, which would be run independently from the new unified system. A large number of zoning changes occurred at both the school and district levels as a result of the merger and subsequent creation of the municipal system, providing a rare opportunity to examine the effects of both school and district quality as they are capitalized in housing prices. We combine the boundary changes and school characteristics with parcel-level property data for the county and estimate the model using a combination of neighborhood fixed effects and repeat sales techniques. The paper makes several key contributions to the existing literature on school quality capitalization. First, this is the first study in the United States to use changes in geographic boundaries to estimate the impact of school quality on housing prices. Second, the variations in school quality are considerably larger in Shelby County than in the datasets used in existing work, allowing us to better identify the effect of school performance. Third, to date little is known about the contribution of school districts to student achievement and school quality. Due to the unique nature of the district level changes in our dataset we are able to examine the effect of district management on housing prices, separate from school quality. This latter estimate may reflect both changes in school financing as well as whether households consider broad administrative characteristics of a school system, on top of performance measures at a particular school. JEL:I21,R2, H75.

The Importance of Information Targeting for School Choice Decisions

Kehinde Ajayi
,
Boston University
Willa Friedman
,
University of Houston
Adrienne Lucas
,
University of Delaware

Abstract

Even though school choice programs are common in many education systems, we know little about the underlying decision-making process. Typically the household is modeled as a unitary decision maker, yet the preferences and information sets of students and their parents might differ. Knowing the identity of the ultimate decision maker and how information affects the decision has crucial implications for the design of school-choice systems, policies to increase participation in such schemes, and the most effective ways to disseminate information. The key conceptual difficulties in modeling the decision-making process and the role of information in that process are the lack of data and the endogenous allocation of information. In this study, we experimentally vary information provision to both students and their parents and observe changes in beliefs, behaviors, and the decision maker’s identity. We designed a large randomized controlled trial of information provision in Ghana. At the end of grade 9, students select senior high schools without knowing crucial school characteristics. In order to remedy this deficit, we created a school-based information campaign that we tested through an RCT across a study population of 900 government schools. We implemented three study arms: (1) screening of an informational video and providing a booklet of senior high school information to students, (2) treatment one plus an information session for parents, and (3) the control group. Both before and after the intervention and the school selection process, we surveyed parents and students about their prior beliefs and preferences and the decision-making processes in their households. Our findings build on earlier work examining school choice decisions and the importance of the decision maker. Our paper is the first to test for changes in beliefs, behaviors, and the identity of the decision maker, uncovering the mechanisms behind observed school choices. I21,I25,D83.

Incentives for Effort or Outputs? A Field Experiment to Improve Student Performance

Sarojini Hirshleifer
,
University of California-Riverside

Abstract

One key choice in designing an incentive is whether to reward outcomes directly (outputs) or to reward the actions and behaviors that lead to those outcomes (effort/inputs). I conduct a novel direct test of an input incentive designed to increase student effort against both an output incentive and a control that does not receive an incentive. The interventions were implemented in a classroom-level randomized experiment with school children in India. A math software curriculum is implemented in all classrooms regardless of treatment assignment. It includes learning modules (the incentivized input) that are completed throughout a unit as well as a test at the end of the unit (the incentivized output). Students who receive an input incentive perform .57 standard deviations better than the control group on a non-incentivized outcome test. This performance is statistically significantly larger than the impact of the output incentive (which is .24 standard deviations and not significant relative to the control). The input incentive is also almost twice as cost-effective as the output incentive. These results provide evidence that there can be large returns to directly inducing student effort in the classroom. The input incentive works better for present-biased students along an incentive-compatible measure of time preferences collected at baseline, which provides evidence to support the hypothesis that more frequent payments can address time inconsistency. This study also provides direct evidence that piecerate input incentives can be more effective than piecerate output incentives. JEL Codes: C93, D99, I21, M52, O15.

Do One-to-One Laptop Programs Improve Student Outcomes? Evidence From Mooresville's Digital Conversion Initiative

Marie C. Hull
,
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
Katherine Duch
,
Analyst Institute

Abstract

New technologies offer many promises to improve student learning, but efforts to bring them to the classroom often fail to produce improvements to student outcomes. A notable exception to this pattern is one-to-one laptop programs. While early evaluations of these programs have been encouraging, they are costly to implement, and no study has investigated the impact of a one-to-one technology program implemented on a large scale over a multiyear period. With administrative school data, this paper uses a differences-in-differences strategy to evaluate the impact of a one-to-one laptop program implemented in a midsize school district. We find that while short-term impacts of the program were modest, math scores improved by 0.14-0.16 standard deviations in the medium term (4-5 years post-implementation). We also investigate the impact of the program on several measures of student behavior, finding that time spent on homework increased with implementation. JEL Codes: I21, J24, O33.
Discussant(s)
Clement Joubert
,
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
JEL Classifications
  • I0 - General