Expanding School Resources and Increasing Time on Task: Effects of a Policy Experiment in Israel on Student Academic Achievement and Behavior

Victor Lavy

NBER Working Paper No. 18369
Issued in September 2012
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

In this paper, I examine how student academic achievements and behavior were affected by a school finance policy experiment undertaken in elementary schools in Israel. Begun in 2004, the funding formula changed from a budget set per class to a budget set per student, with more weight given to students from lower socioeconomic and lower educational backgrounds. The experiment altered teaching budgets, the length of the school week, and the allocation of time devoted to core subjects. The results suggest that spending more money and spending more time at school and on key tasks all lead to increasing academic achievements with no behavioral costs. I find that the overall budget per class has positive and significant effects on students' average test scores and that this effect is symmetric and identical for schools that gained or lost resources due to the funding reform. Separate estimations of the effect of increasing the length of the school week and the subject-specific instructional time per week also show positive and significant effects on math, science, and English test scores. However, no cross effects of additional instructional time across subjects emerge, suggesting that the effect of overall weekly school instruction time on test scores reflects only the effect of additional instructional time in these particular subjects. As a robustness check of the validity of the identification strategy, I also use an alternative method that exploits variation in the instruction time of different subjects. Remarkably, this alternative identification strategy yields almost identical results to the results obtained based on the school funding reform. Additional results suggest that the effect on test scores is similar for boys and girls but it is much larger for pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds and it is also more pronounced in schools populated with students from homogenous socioeconomic backgrounds. The evidence also shows that a longer school week increases the time that students spend on homework without reducing social and school satisfaction and without increasing school violence.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18369

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