Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Long-Run Impact of Tracking High-Achieving Students: Evidence from Boston's Advanced Work Class

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 1:30 PM
Japengo (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sarah Cohodes, Harvard University
Previous work on tracking high-achieving elementary and middle students in the US has shown little impact on short-run test scores. I provide the first estimates of the long-run impacts of tracking using data from the Boston Public Schools' (BPS) program for high-achieving students, Advanced Work Class (AWC). AWC is an accelerated curriculum in 4th through 6th grades with dedicated classrooms. BPS offers AWC to students who score well on a 3rd grade exam. Using a fuzzy regression discontinuity approach, I estimate the causal effect of AWC on standardized test scores, AP, SAT, high school graduation and college entrance. Like other programs for high-achieving students, AWC has little impact on test scores. However, it improves longer-term academic outcomes. AWC increases Algebra 1 enrollment by 8th grade, AP exam taking, especially in calculus, and college enrollment. It also has large positive effects on high school graduation for minority students. College enrollment increases are particularly large for elite institutions. One year of AWC attendance triples the rate of matriculation at a "most competitive" university. Using a multiple instrument strategy, I test several potential channels for program effects to operate and find suggestive evidence that teacher effectiveness and math acceleration account for AWC effects, with little evidence that peer effects contribute to gains.