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How Large an Effect Can We Expect from School Reforms? (WP-05-04)

Spyros Konstantopoulos and Larry V. Hedges

Judging the success of school reform requires an interpretative context in which to judge whether effects obtained are large enough to be important or so small as to be a disappointment. The logic of school reform suggests two frameworks with which to judge the importance of effects. One is the size of the existing achievement gaps between important groups in society. The other is the size of gaps between mean achievement among schools (adjusted for student characteristics). Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are used to demonstrate that in national data, gaps that appear large by one standard might appear small by the other. We argue that the most appropriate framework for judging reform effects is a national distribution of school effects.

Spyros Konstantopoulos, Assistant Professor of Human Development, Social Policy, and Learning Sciences; Faculty Associate, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Larry V. Hedges, Board of Trustees Professor of Statistics and Social Policy; Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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