Race and the Mismeasure of School Quality
In large urban districts, schools enrolling more white students tend to have higher school performance ratings. We use an instrumental variables strategy leveraging centralized school assignment to identify the drivers of the correlation between racial make-up and ratings. Estimates from Denver and New York City suggest the relationship between widely-reported school performance ratings and white enrollment shares reflects selection bias rather than causal school value-added. In fact, value-added in these two cities is essentially unrelated to white enrollment shares. A simple regression adjustment is shown to yield school ratings that are uncorrelated with race, while predicting causal value-added as well or better than the corresponding unadjusted measures.
Financial support from the Walton Foundation and the National Science Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. We thank the staff of GreatSchools.org for many helpful conversations. Thanks also go to Eryn Heying, Anna Vallee, and Talia Gerstle for invaluable administrative support. Jimmy Chin, Ray Han, and Ini Umosen provided expert research assistance. The research described here was carried out under data-use agreements between MIT and the New York City and Denver Public School districts. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.