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Learning Why More Learning Takes Place in Some Classrooms Than Others

Richard Murnane, John B. Willett, Marie‐Andrée Somers and Claudia Uribe

German Economic Review, 2005, vol. 6, issue 3, 309-330

Abstract: Abstract. The relatively poor average performance of German students on the recent PISA international evaluations of 15‐ and 16‐year‐olds' literary skills (2000) and mathematical skills (2003) and the wide variation in performance, with low‐income students scoring particularly poorly, have led to calls for reforms of the German educational system. Understanding why students in some classrooms learn more than do those in other classrooms is an important first step in considering alternative reform strategies. Possible explanations include differences in teacher quality, class sizes and peer groups, and also differences among the types of secondary schools that parents select for their children. This paper illustrates a set of techniques that are useful in examining the roles these factors play in predicting why, net of family background and prior achievement, the average achievement of children in some classrooms is much higher than that of children in other classrooms. We illustrate the use of these techniques with a dataset from Bogotá, Colombia, that has two attractive properties. First, some teachers teach multiple classes of students. Second, students are enrolled in schools in two sectors (public and private). Application of the techniques described in this paper could shed light on the reasons why the average academic achievement of German students attending some schools is much higher than that of German students attending other schools.

Date: 2005
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