nep-edu New Economics Papers
on Education
Issue of 2023‒10‒02
seven papers chosen by
Nádia Simões, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa 

  1. Do Teachers' Labor Contracts Matter? By Aparicio Fenoll, Ainoa; Quaranta, Roberto
  2. Starting the school year on the right foot. Effects of a summer learning program targeting vulnerable students in Italy By Davide Azzolini; Martina Bazzoli; Sergiu C. Burlacu; Enrico Rettore
  3. Independent-School Competition and Sweden's Performance in TIMSS By Heller-Sahlgren, Gabriel
  4. Long-run effects of school spending. Evidence from exiting cohort size variation By Audun Langørgen; Sturla A. Løkken
  5. Understanding Education Policy Preferences: Survey Experiments with Policymakers in 35 Developing Countries By Lee Crawfurd; Susannah Hares; Ana Minardi; Justin Sandefur
  6. The Impact of Private Schools, School Chains, and Public-Private Partnerships in Developing Countries By Lee Crawfurd; Susannah Hares
  7. Affording Degree Completion: An Experimental Study of Completion Grants at Accessible Public Universities By Christine Baker-Smith; Kallie Clark; Sara Goldrick-Rab; Christel Perkins; Douglas A. Webber; Travis T. York

  1. By: Aparicio Fenoll, Ainoa (University of Turin); Quaranta, Roberto (Collegio Carlo Alberto)
    Abstract: Previous literature on the effect of tenured and tenure-track vs. non-tenure-track professors on students' performance at university finds contrasting results. Our paper is the first to test whether tenured/tenure-track and non-tenure-track teachers differently affect students' performance at school. We use data on standardized test scores of a representative sample of primary and secondary school students in Italy and information on their Italian and mathematics teachers' labor contracts. Controlling for class- and subject-fixed effects, we find that non-tenure-track teachers decrease students' performance by 0.21 standard deviation. This detrimental effect is fully explained because non-tenure-track teachers are less experienced. In line with previous findings on the adverse effects of teachers' absences, non-tenure-track teachers are also associated with 0.1 standard deviation worse student performance when their contracts last less than a year.
    Keywords: teachers, labor contracts, students' performance, standardized tests
    JEL: J41 H52
    Date: 2023–08
  2. By: Davide Azzolini; Martina Bazzoli; Sergiu C. Burlacu; Enrico Rettore
    Abstract: We conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a summer learning program for vulnerable students across ten cities in Italy (N=1, 038). The program had two components: educational workshops in small groups (88 hours) and personalized tutoring (12 hours). Results indicate significant improvements in reading comprehension and marginally in grammar. Improvements in arithmetic and geometry are smaller albeit significant when aggregated into a single mathematics score. Effects were most pronounced among primary school students and among students with special needs or from vulnerable environments. The program compensated for summer learning loss, as treatment group students returned to school in September with higher learning levels than before the summer, while the control group experienced learning setbacks, predominantly in mathematics. While the study clearly shows that students start the new year with a higher level of competencies, it does not definitively establish the lasting impact of these effects. An explorative analysis of noncognitive skills provides conflicting insights: an increase in students' interest in acquiring new competencies suggests potential enduring effects, but the emergence of dissatisfaction with traditional school activities and heightened school-related stress raises concerns about reduced engagement with conventional schooling.
    Keywords: summer learning loss, summer learning program, Italy, achievement gap, RCT
    JEL: I24
    Date: 2023–09
  3. By: Heller-Sahlgren, Gabriel (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))
    Abstract: This paper analyses the effects of independent-school competition on Sweden’s performance in TIMSS, an international low-stakes test in mathematics and science among students in year 8. Exploiting variation in independent-school enrolment shares across counties over time, it finds that increasing competition has improved TIMSS scores, an impact that appears only after 2003 and is driven by for-profit schools. The results suggest that competition both slowed down Sweden’s performance decline between 1995 and 2011 as well as contributed to its improving scores between 2011 and 2019. A simulation based on the estimates indicates that Sweden’s average score in TIMSS 2019 would have been 20 points, or 0.24 standard deviations, lower without the expansion of the independent-school sector.
    Keywords: Independent-school competition; Student performance; TIMSS
    JEL: I20 L33
    Date: 2023–09–05
  4. By: Audun Langørgen; Sturla A. Løkken (Statistics Norway)
    Abstract: This paper investigates the long-term effects of local government education spending on child outcomes, including income, educational attainment, and family formation in adulthood. We propose a novel identification strategy which exploits quasirandom variation in demographic trends when there is strong inertia in local government spending on compulsory schooling. Specifically, size of the exiting cohort that finishes compulsory schooling just before entry of the treated cohort is used as a source of exogenous variation. First, we show that exiting cohort size displays a significantly positive effect on per-pupil spending during school years of the treated cohort. Second, we argue that causal effects of school spending can be identified by utilizing exiting cohort size to instrument for school spending. In implementing this strategy, school spending is found to exhibit sizable and significant effects on income in adulthood for boys, with estimates that are relatively large for children from low- and middle-income families. By comparison, the effects of education spending are small and insignificant for girls.
    Keywords: Education spending; School inputs; Compulsory schooling; Cohort size; Child outcomes; Local public finance
    JEL: H42 H7 I2 J12 J62
    Date: 2023–08
  5. By: Lee Crawfurd (Center for Global Development); Susannah Hares (Center for Global Development); Ana Minardi (Center for Global Development); Justin Sandefur (Center for Global Development)
    Abstract: Foreign aid donors and international organizations supporting education in developing countries have increasingly coalesced around a policy agenda prioritizing foundational learning, measured by test scores in primary school, based on a diagnosis of deficient school quality, and a growing body of empirical evidence about effective interventions to improve quality. We survey over 900 senior government officials working on education in 35 low- and middle-income countries to gauge their alignment with this agenda. Using conjoint and survey experiments, we show that on average policymakers prioritise vocational over foundational skills. We then seek to explain variation in preferences as a function of three possible factors: different objectives for education (e.g., test scores versus socialization), different beliefs about the state of the world (e.g., enrollment and learning levels), and different beliefs about the effectiveness of specific interventions. Misalignment with donor agendas is evident in all three dimensions. We also show experimentally that beliefs can be changed through the provision of evidence.
    Keywords: foundational literacy, vocational education, bureaucracy, policy preferences, conjoint, discrete choice
    JEL: H40 H52 I22 I25 O15
    Date: 2021–11–30
  6. By: Lee Crawfurd (Center for Global Development); Susannah Hares (Center for Global Development)
    Abstract: How should governments and donors engage with the growing private sector in education in developing countries? Enrolment in private schools now exceeds 50 percent at the primary level in many major urban centres across Africa and Asia. Whilst the majority of these schools are small and independently owned and operated, much policy attention has focused on chains or networks of private schools, and on public-private partnerships, as routes for public and philanthropic engagement. In this paper, we review the evidence on the effects of individual private schools, private school chains, and public-private partnerships (PPPs) on learning, equity, and efficiency. We adopt a comprehensive search strategy for eligible studies, with transparent search criteria. We build on and update prior reviews by Ashley et al. (2014) and Aslam et al. (2017). The search resulted in over 100 studies on low-cost private schools and PPPs, with a large majority being on low-cost private schools. We also provide original analysis of five datasets on school chains. Though some private school students do achieve better learning outcomes, much of this advantage is due to selection of wealthier or better motivated students. What true positive value-added remains is typically small and insufficient to help children achieve meaningfully better learning goals or life outcomes. The very poorest children do not access private schools. School chains are not a major part of education systems and have limited growth potential, making them peripheral in solving the twin challenges of enrolment and learning. Public-private partnerships have shown limited value in improving quality but may represent a low-cost means of increasing access to school. Given the reality that private schools educate a large share of students in many countries, more evidence is needed on how governments can best support these children.
    Keywords: private schools, chains, PPPs, developing countries
    JEL: I25 I28 H52 O15
    Date: 2021–12–16
  7. By: Christine Baker-Smith; Kallie Clark; Sara Goldrick-Rab; Christel Perkins; Douglas A. Webber; Travis T. York
    Abstract: To improve college affordability and graduation rates, universities are increasingly allocating “completion grants” to students who are nearing the finish line but facing financial challenges. Using an experimental design and common program model across 11 broad-access public universities in ten states, we assessed the impact of a completion grants averaging $1, 200 distributed among more than 14, 000 students. We find that, despite university expectations that most students were near completion, only two-thirds of students eligible to receive a completion grant graduated within the academic year. Receiving a completion grant did not improve that rate. However, nearly all eligible students (95%) graduated within three years or were still working on their degrees. While completion grants are intended to enhance equity, we do not find evidence that they exerted positive impacts for marginalized groups as designed in this study. Moreover, while there was some program implementation variation across universities, it did not lead to differences in program impact.
    Keywords: higher education; affordability; graduation; financial aid; inequality
    Date: 2023–07

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