Remedial Education and Student Achievement: A Regression-Discontinuity Analysis

Brian A. Jacob, Lars Lefgren

NBER Working Paper No. 8918
Issued in May 2002
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education

As standards and accountability have become an increasingly prominent feature of the educational landscape, educators have relied more on remedial programs such as summer school and grade retention to help low-achieving students meet minimum academic standards. Yet the evidence on the effectiveness of such programs is mixed, and prior research suffers from selection bias. However, recent school reform efforts in Chicago provide an opportunity to examine the causal impact of these remedial education programs. In 1996, the Chicago Public Schools instituted an accountability policy that tied summer school and promotional decisions to performance on standardized tests, which resulted in a highly non-linear relationship between current achievement and the probability of attending summer school or being retained. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that the net effect of these programs was to substantially increase academic achievement among third graders, but not sixth graders. In addition, contrary to conventional wisdom and prior research, we find that retention increases achievement for third grade students and has little effect on math achievement for sixth grade students.

download in pdf format
   (759 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8918

Published: Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2004. "Remedial Education and Student Achievement: A Regression-Discontinuity Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 226-244, November. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Imbens and Lemieux w13039 Regression Discontinuity Designs: A Guide to Practice
Lee and Lemieux w14723 Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics
Jacob and Lefgren w13514 The Effect of Grade Retention on High School Completion
Katz, Kling, and Liebman w7973 Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment
Lavy and Schlosser w10575 Targeted Remedial Education for Under-Performing Teenagers: Costs and Benefits
NBER Videos

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

Contact Us