While it is generally believed that school quality matters, finding what it is that makes a school good or bad has proved very difficult. The most commonly studied variable, class size, has produced very inconclusive results. But clearly there is a lot more to education than class size. This paper shows some interesting results on the benefits of greater school autonomy.
School autonomy and educational performance: within-country evidence
Jean Hindriks, Maijn Verschelde, Glenn Rayp and Koen Schoors
This paper shows the value of school autonomy for educational performance. To fully capture the informational advantage of local actors, we define school autonomy as the operational empowerment of the principals and teachers. The Flemish secondary school system in Belgium is analyzed as it is has a long history of educational school autonomy, but considerable variation between schools in school staff empowerment. Combining detailed school level and pupil level data from the PISA 2006 study with a semiparametric hierarchical model, we find strong indications that operational school autonomy is associated with high educational performance if appropriate accountability systems are active. Sensitivity tests show that both low and high-performers benefit from this kind of school autonomy.