Making the Grade: The Sensitivity of Education Program Effectiveness to Input Choices and Outcome Measures

55 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2017 Last revised: 7 Feb 2018

Jason Kerwin

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Applied Economics

Rebecca L. Thornton

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Economics, Students

Date Written: January 30, 2018

Abstract

This paper demonstrates the acute sensitivity of education program effectiveness to input choices and outcome measures, using a randomized evaluation. The program we study raises reading scores by 0.64SD and writing scores by 0.45SD. A reduced-cost version instead yields statistically-insignificant reading gains and large negative effects (-0.3SD) on writing. Detailed classroom observations provide evidence on the mechanisms driving the results, but mediation analyses show that observed teacher and student behaviors explain less than five percent of the differences in impacts. Machine-learning results suggest important nonlinearities and complementarities across inputs and skills in the education production function.

Keywords: Economics of Education, Cost-Effectiveness, Development Economics

JEL Classification: I21, I25, O12, O15

Suggested Citation

Kerwin, Jason and Thornton, Rebecca L., Making the Grade: The Sensitivity of Education Program Effectiveness to Input Choices and Outcome Measures (January 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3002723 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3002723

Jason Kerwin (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Applied Economics ( email )

MN
United States

Rebecca L. Thornton

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Champaign, IL
United States

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