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Abstract:

cover
CEP Discussion Paper
What’s in a Name? Expectations, Heuristics and Choice During a Period of Radical School Reform
Marco Bertoni, Stephen Gibbons and Olmo Silva April 2017
Paper No' CEPDP1477:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: I21; H75; C23; D03


Tags: school reform; choice and autonomy; parental preferences; heuristic-based decision making

Education policy worldwide has sought to incentivize school improvement and facilitate pupil-school matching by introducing reforms that promote autonomy and choice. Understanding the way in which families form preferences during these periods of reform is crucial for evaluating the impact of such policies. We study the effects on choice of a recent shock to the English school system – the academy programme – which gave existing state schools greater autonomy, but provided limited information on possible expected benefits. We use administrative data on school applications for three cohorts of students to estimate whether academy conversion changes schools’ popularity. We find that families – particularly non-poor, White British ones – rank converted schools higher on average. Expected changes in composition, effectiveness and other school policies cannot explain this updating of preferences. Instead, the patterns suggest that families combine the signal of conversion with prior information on quality, popularity and proximity as a heuristic for assessing a school’s expected future performance.