National Evidence on the Test Score Performance Effects of Structural Switching
48 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2018 Last revised: 9 Nov 2018
Date Written: November 8, 2018
How does grade configuration affect student performance? I use recent national district-by-grade data on rates of school switching induced by grade configuration (i.e. rates of structural switching) and test performance to bring new evidence to this question. Past research has found that student performance is on average relatively low following structural switches, but in fact students relatively overperform in the grades just prior to these switches. In my national sample, I find that this so-called "top-dog/bottom-dog" pattern appears for all terminal grade choices among grades 3 through 8, is geographically widespread, and is robust to controlling for grade-specific effects of a rich set of covariates. Thus I add strong evidence to the literature that these relationships are caused by the grade configuration policy, rather than being due to careful selection. I explore potential mechanisms and discuss policy and research implications.
Keywords: School reform, grade span, grade configuration, student achievement
JEL Classification: I21, I28, H52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation