The economics of education: student achievement and school effectiveness
AffiliationMelbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2015 Dr. Mike Helal
This thesis examines three important aspects of the contribution made by schools to individual student achievement. Mixed evidence exists in the literature on school effects on student achievement, with early research finding little or no effect. Using a unique administrative dataset, we estimate school value-added effects, highlighting shortcomings in existing models. Allowing for heterogeneity, we find evidence of differential school effects by student ability. Our preferred measurement-error corrected model finds effective schools can achieve as much as one-quarter of a year’s progress more in a single year compared to ineffective schools. Contrasting results characterize research into the effectiveness of school resources in improving student achievement. Recent findings of substantial principal and teacher effects increasingly suggest that what matters is how school resources are managed and spent, rather than their level. The Smarter Schools National Partnership provided $2.5 billion in funding to disadvantaged schools with the spending decisions left largely up to schools within broadly defined goals. Achievement growth increased in schools that received the additional resources. The program was found to have had the greatest effect on growth in cognitive skills for secondary school students compared to primary school students. Employing a unique administrative panel data set from the Victorian public school system - known for the degree of autonomy held by its principals - we construct estimates of the idiosyncratic effects of principals on student achievement. We do so using fixed effects techniques and turnover of principals across schools to isolate the effect of principals from the effect of schools themselves. More importantly, through detailed staff and parent surveys, we investigate potential mechanisms through which individual principals may affect student outcomes. Our results suggest that a primary pathway is through establishing a coherent set of goals for a school, and through increasing professional interaction amongst staff.
Keywordseconomics of education; student achievement; school effectiveness
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