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Reassessing the View that American Schools Are Broken

Alan Krueger

No 774, Working Papers from Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section.

Abstract: This paper evaluates evidence on the effectiveness of elementary and secondary schooling in the U.S. Contrary to popular perception, most standardized test scores have not declined in the last quarter century, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data show a modest upward trend. In addition, school spending per pupil and NAEP scores exhibit a positive correlation in the aggregate data. A review of the Tennessee Student-Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) experiment indicates that students who were randomly assigned to smaller classes performed better on standardized tests. Both the aggregate NAEP data and the STAR experiment suggest that a 7 student reduction in class size is associated with a 5 to 8 percentile point increase in test scores, on average. Evidence also suggests that students from low socioeconomic status families learn just as much during the school year as students from high socioeconomic status families, but students from low socioeconomic status families fall behind during the summer months. Finally, the earnings of high school graduates relative to high school dropouts increased substantially between 1979 and 1996, suggesting that high schools provide skills that are valued by the labor market.

Keywords: education; education production function (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F15 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1998-01
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