Comprehensive Versus Selective Schooling in England in Wales: What Do We Know?

31 Pages Posted: 21 May 2006 Last revised: 12 Jun 2006

See all articles by Jörn-Steffen Pischke

Jörn-Steffen Pischke

London School of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Alan Manning

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP)

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Date Written: April 2006

Abstract

British secondary schools moved from a system of extensive and early selection and tracking in secondary schools to one with comprehensive schools during the 1960s and 70s. Before the reform, students would take an exam at age eleven, which determined whether they would attend an academically oriented grammar school or a lower level secondary school. The reform proceeded at an uneven pace in different areas, so that both secondary school systems coexist during the 1960s and 70s. The British transition therefore provides an excellent laboratory for the study of the impact of a comprehensive versus a selective school system on student achievement. Previous studies analyzing this transition have typically used a value-added methodology: they compare outcomes for students passing through either type of school controlling for achievement levels at the time of entering secondary education. While this seems like a reasonable research design, we demonstrate that it is unlikely to successfully eliminate selection effects in who attends what type of school. Very similar results are obtained by looking at the effect of secondary school environment on achievement at age 11 and controlling for age 7 achievement. Since children only enter secondary school at age 11, these effects are likely due to selection bias. Careful choice of treatment and control areas, and using political control of the county as an instrument for early implementation of the comprehensive regime do not solve this problem.

Suggested Citation

Pischke, Jörn-Steffen (Steve) and Manning, Alan, Comprehensive Versus Selective Schooling in England in Wales: What Do We Know? (April 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12176. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=897030

Jörn-Steffen (Steve) Pischke (Contact Author)

London School of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Alan Manning

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) ( email )

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London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
(44 20) 7955 6078 (Phone)

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