Monday, September 7, 2015

Capital Spending on Schools Appears to Have Little Effect on Student Achievement

Public investments in repairs, modernization, and construction of schools cost billions. However, little is known about the nature of school facility investments, whether it actually changes the physical condition of public schools, and the subsequent causal impacts on student achievement.

This study examines the achievement effects of nearly 1,400 capital campaigns initiated and financed by local school districts, comparing districts where school capital bonds were either narrowly approved or defeated by district voters.

Overall, the study finds little evidence that school capital campaigns improve student achievement. The analyses focusing on students that attend targeted schools and therefore are exposed to major campus renovations also generate very precise zero estimates of achievement effects. Thus, locally financed school capital campaigns - the predominant method through which facility investments are made - may represent a limited tool for realizing substantial gains in student achievement or closing achievement gaps.

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