PreK-12 Education


Investing in Schools: Capital Spending, Facility Conditions and Student Achievement

Martorell, P., Stange, K., McFarlin, I. 2016. “Investing in Schools: Capital Spending, Facility Conditions, and Student Achievement.” Journal of Public Economics, 140 (August 2016): 13-29.


Public investments in repairs, modernization, and construction of schools cost billions. However, little is known about the nature of school facility investments, whether it actually changes the physical condition of public schools, and the subsequent causal impacts on student achievement. We study the achievement effects of nearly 1,400 capital campaigns initiated and financed by local school districts, comparing districts where school capital bonds were either narrowly approved or defeated by district voters. Overall, we find little evidence that school capital campaigns improve student achievement. Our event-study analyses focusing on students that attend targeted schools and therefore exposed to major campus renovations also generate very precise zero estimates of achievement effects. Thus, locally financed school capital campaigns – the predominant method through which facility investments are made – may represent a limited tool for realizing substantial gains in student achievement or closing achievement gaps.

[Download the EPI working paper]

Leadership and Teacher Policy

Teacher Effectiveness and Human Resource Policies in K-12

Catching Cheating Teachers: The Results of an Unusual Experiment in Implementing Theory

Jacob, B. and Levitt S. (2003). "Catching Cheating Teachers: The Results of an Unusual Experiment in Implementing Theory." In William G. Gale and Janet Rothenberg Pack, eds., Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs 2003. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.


This paper reports on the results of a prospective implementation of methods for detecting teacher cheating. In Spring 2002, over 100 Chicago Public Schools elementary classrooms were selected for retesting based on the cheating detection algorithm. Classrooms prospectively identified as likely cheaters experienced large test score declines. In contrast, classes that had large test score gains on the original test, but were prospectively identified as being unlikely to have cheated, maintained their original gains. Randomly selected classrooms also maintained their gains. The cheating detection tools were thus demonstrated to be effective in distinguishing between classrooms that achieved large test-score gains as a consequence of cheating versus those whose gains were the result of outstanding teaching. In addition, the data generated by the implementation experiment highlight numerous ways in which the original cheating detection methods can be improved in the future.

[Download the NBER working paper]

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