Teaching with the test: experimental evidence on diagnostic feedback and capacity building for public schools in Argentina

Author(s): De Hoyos, Rafael E.; Ganimian, Alejandro J.; Holland, Peter A.

Organisation(s): World Bank

Date: 2017

Pages: 65 p.


The number of large-scale student assessments increased exponentially over the past two decades. This growth has been motivated by a belief in the potential of such assessments to help school systems identify learning gaps and inform reforms to remedy them. Yet, there is surprisingly little evidence on this question in developing countries. The authors conducted an experiment in the Province of La Rioja, Argentina in which they randomly assigned 105 public primary schools to: (a) a “diagnostic feedback” group in which they administered standardized tests in math and reading at baseline and two follow-ups and made their results available to the schools through user-friendly reports; (b) a “capacity-building” group in which they also provided schools with workshops and school visits for supervisors, principals, and teachers; or (c) a control group, in which they administered the tests only at the second follow-up. After two years, diagnostic feedback schools outperformed control schools by .34 and .36 in third grade math and reading, and by .28 and .38 in fifth grade math and reading. Principals at these schools were more likely to report using assessment results for management decisions and students were more likely to report that their teachers engaged in more instructional activities and improved their interactions with them. Capacity-building schools saw more limited impacts due to lower achievement at baseline, low take up, and little value-added of workshops and visits. However, in most cases the authors cannot discard the possibility that both interventions had the same impact.

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