Knowledge, Tests, and Fadeout in Educational Interventions

44 Pages Posted: 4 May 2012

See all articles by Elizabeth Cascio

Elizabeth Cascio

Department of Economics, Dartmouth College; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Douglas Staiger

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

Date Written: May 2012

Abstract

Educational interventions are often evaluated and compared on the basis of their impacts on test scores. Decades of research have produced two empirical regularities: interventions in later grades tend to have smaller effects than the same interventions in earlier grades, and the test score impacts of early educational interventions almost universally "fade out" over time. This paper explores whether these empirical regularities are an artifact of the common practice of rescaling test scores in terms of a student's position in a widening distribution of knowledge. If a standard deviation in test scores in later grades translates into a larger difference in knowledge, an intervention's effect on normalized test scores may fall even as its effect on knowledge does not. We evaluate this hypothesis by fitting a model of education production to correlations in test scores across grades and with college-going using both administrative and survey data. Our results imply that the variance in knowledge does indeed rise as children progress through school, but not enough for test score normalization to fully explain these empirical regularities.

Suggested Citation

Cascio, Elizabeth and Staiger, Douglas, Knowledge, Tests, and Fadeout in Educational Interventions (May 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18038. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2050828

Elizabeth Cascio (Contact Author)

Department of Economics, Dartmouth College ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Douglas Staiger

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-643-2979 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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