Educational resources and student performance17 aug 2017
The relationship between educational resources and student performance is one of the most debated topics in educational research. Despite increased availability of data and empirical strategies to uncover causal effects in recent years, the evidence of the effect of resources on educational outcomes is still inconclusive. Even for more narrow and popular policy tools, such as class size and teacher density, results are inconsistent both across countries and levels of education. For policy purposes, this implies that studies of the causal effect of resources on student performance for separate levels of education and for separate countries are warranted.
The ideal research design to identify the causal effect of teacher density on student performance is a randomized experiment where one manipulates teacher density. However, this is not how the central government and the school districts operate when resources and teachers are allocated. There will always be a question about the external validity of such experiments, and the understanding of the effect of teacher density will thus be enhanced by other research designs.
One such alternative is to exploit the grant policy initiated by the Norwegian government in 2015. The government decided to introduce a special government grant to increase teacher density in grades 1-4 where the intention was to strengthen early intervention and improve student learning. This grant design provides an opportunity to use quasi-experimental approaches to identify the causal effect of teacher density on student performance. In addition, it can be used to investigate to what extent school districts allocate additional grants in the way intended by the central government, and whether the allocation of the grant and the effect of the grant on student performance depend on school district characteristics