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The Performance and Competitive Effects of School Autonomy

Damon Clark
Journal of Political Economy
Vol. 117, No. 4 (August 2009), pp. 745-783
DOI: 10.1086/605604
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/605604
Page Count: 39
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Abstract

This paper studies a recent British reform that allowed public high schools to opt out of local authority control and become autonomous schools funded directly by the central government. Schools seeking autonomy had only to propose and win a majority vote among current parents. Almost one in three high schools voted on autonomy between 1988 and 1997, and using a version of the regression discontinuity design, I find large achievement gains at schools in which the vote barely won compared to schools in which it barely lost. Despite other reforms that ensured that the British education system was, by international standards, highly competitive, a comparison of schools in the geographic neighborhoods of narrow vote winners and narrow vote losers suggests that these gains did not spill over.

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