How Does School Bureaucracy Affect Student Performance? A Case of New Jersey School Districts
29 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2008
Date Written: June 7, 2008
There exist extensive debates on the relationship between school bureaucracy and student performance. Chubb and Moe (1988, 1990) contend that bureaucracy causes poorer student performance. On the contrary, Smith and Meier (1994, 1995) argue that school bureaucracy is a result of poor performing schools, not vice versa. Therefore, this essay reexamines this relationship through new evidence using panel data from over 600 school districts in New Jersey during the years 2001 - 2002 and 2005 - 2006. Findings from fixed-effect models support both Chubb and Moe's (1988, 1990) and Smith and Meier's (1994, 1995) views. At the 8th and 11th grade levels, school bureaucracy is associated with poorer student performance as measured by literacy and mathematic tests. On the other hand, at the 4th grade level, there is a lack of evidence to conclude that school bureaucracy is harmful to students' learning. This research suggests that we have to be very specific when articulating school administration reforms. An across-the-board solution of eliminating all school bureaucratic institutions and replacing them with market-like school operations may not bring about positive outcomes as some advocates have argued.
Keywords: School bureaucracy, school choice, educational administrative reform
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