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Sönke Matthewes (WZB Berlin, DIW Berlin & Freie Universität Berlin)

24 January 2019 @ 10:00 - 12:00


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24 January 2019
10:00 - 12:00
Event Category:
Academic Events

“De-Tracking at the Margin – A County-Level DifferenceinDifferences Analysis of Comprehensive Schools in Germany”

Classroom 3

Abstract: In comparison to other industrialized countries, the association between socio-economic background and educational attainment is high in Germany, as is the share of low achieving school leavers. This negative record is often attributed to its rigidly tracked school system, which channels students into three distinct educational pathways immediately after primary school (at the age of 10). While, in contrast to many other European countries, Germany eschewed structural reforms towards comprehensive schooling, over the last decades subtle changes have occurred at the margins of the school system, in a highly decentralized fashion. This paper estimates the effect of one such ‘marginal reform’ on student attainment — namely the increase in the supply of a novel school type (labeled “comprehensive school”) that allows for the pursuit of all three educational certificates. Drawing on county-level administrative data on school supply, student enrollment and graduation rates, we exploit differential increases in the supply of comprehensive schools between counties over the period 1995–2015 in a difference-in-differences (DD) framework. Our results show that while comprehensive school supply highly correlates with both rates of transition to the upper-secondary phase and final attainment of the university-entrance certificate (Abitur), effects are substantially reduced when introducing county and year fixed effects and, subsequently, county-specific time trends in the DD model. Only relatively high supply levels seem to have discernible positive impact on attainment, suggesting that Germany’s decentralized ‘hands-off’ approach to the organization of school structure is falling short in increasing educational attainment.