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Abstract

Education reform has spawned efforts to test learning across the nation. This paper analyzes the determinants of Massachusetts’ school district test scores under the state’s high stakes testing program, MCAS. The study is the first to demonstrate direct links between improvements in MCAS scores and state aid to school districts. The authors estimate “value added” for each school district in the state. The list of schools with high value added produces real surprises — while some affluent districts do well, others rank at the very bottom. Additionally, the study analyzes how teacher maximum salaries, district superintendent salaries, per capita income, internet usage, and other factors, including various state school “choice” initiatives, affect test scores. The study shows that athletic budgets have substantial impacts on district test scores — the more districts spend on athletics as a percentage of the state’s “foundation budget,” the lower their scores. This is the first study to cover the entire state and employ appropriate spatial statistics to correct well-known errors in statistical estimates of geographic data.

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