NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The 'Pupil' Factory: Specialization and the Production of Human Capital in Schools

Roland G. Fryer, Jr

NBER Working Paper No. 22205
Issued in April 2016
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, I conducted a randomized field experiment in fifty traditional public elementary schools in Houston, Texas designed to test the potential productivity benefits of teacher specialization in schools. Treatment schools altered their schedules to have teachers specialize in a subset of subjects in which they have demonstrated relative strength (based on value-add measures and principal observations). The average impact of teacher specialization on student achievement is -0.042 standard deviations in math and -0.034 standard deviations in reading, per year. Students enrolled in special education and those with younger teachers demonstrated marked negative results. I argue that the results are consistent with a model in which the benefits of specialization driven by sorting teachers into a subset of subjects based on comparative advantage is outweighed by inefficient pedagogy due to having fewer interactions with each student. Consistent with this, specialized teachers report providing less attention to individual students (relative to non-specialized teachers), though other mechanisms are possible.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the August 2016 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22205

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Fryer w22130 The Production of Human Capital in Developed Countries: Evidence from 196 Randomized Field Experiments
Fletcher and Wolfe w22168 The Importance of Family Income in the Formation and Evolution of Non-Cognitive Skills in Childhood
Bailey, Cao, Kuchler, and Stroebel w22258 Social Networks and Housing Markets
Diamond and Persson w22207 The Long-term Consequences of Teacher Discretion in Grading of High-stakes Tests
Jackson w22226 What Do Test Scores Miss? The Importance of Teacher Effects on Non-Test Score Outcomes
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us