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What is the Tradeoff between Smaller Classes and Teacher Quality?

Christopher Jepsen

Public Policy Institute of California; University of Kentucky

Steven G. Rivkin

Amherst College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

September 2002

NBER Working Paper No. w9205

This paper investigates the effects of California's class size reduction program on teacher quality and student achievement in an effort to gain a comprehensive understanding of the impact of a large-scale decrease in class size. It uses year-to-year differences in class size generated by natural variation in enrollment and the state's class size reduction program to identify both the direct effects of class size reduction and accompanying changes in teacher quality. The results show that, all else equal, smaller classes raise third-grade mathematics and reading achievement, particularly for lower-income students. However, the expansion of the teaching force required to staff the additional classrooms appears to have led to a deterioration in average teacher quality in schools serving a predominantly black student body. This deterioration partially or, in some cases, fully offset the benefits of smaller classes, demonstrating the importance of considering all implications of any policy change.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

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Date posted: September 20, 2002  

Suggested Citation

Jepsen, Christopher and Rivkin, Steven G., What is the Tradeoff between Smaller Classes and Teacher Quality? (September 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w9205. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=332249

Contact Information

Christopher Jepsen
Public Policy Institute of California ( email )
500 Washington Street
Suite 800
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States
University of Kentucky ( email )
Lexington, KY 40506
United States
Steven G. Rivkin (Contact Author)
Amherst College - Department of Economics ( email )
P.O. Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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