Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics

Khwaja, Asim; Andrabi, Tahir; Das, Jishnu; Zajonc, Tristan (2011)


Khwaja, Asim, Tahir Andrabi, Jishnu Das, and Tristan Zajonc. 2011. “Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting For Learning Dynamics”. American Economic Journal Of Applied Economics 3 (3): 29-54.
This paper illustrates the central role of persistence in estimating and interpreting value-added models of learning. Using data from Pakistani public and private schools, we apply dynamic panel methods that address three key empirical challenges: imperfect persistence, unobserved heterogeneity, and measurement error. Our estimates suggest that only one-fifth to one-half of learning persists between grades and that private schools increase average achievement by 0.25 standard deviations each year. In contrast, value-added models that assume perfect persistence yield severely downward estimates of the private school effect. Models that ignore unobserved heterogeneity or measurement error produce biased estimates of persistence.