Does Mid-level Management Matter for Student Achievement? A Case Study of Regional Departments in the State of Ceará, Brazil
Comprehending the contributions of each factor involved in formal schooling is essential for developing policies and deliver public education. Some topics that have been widely studied by scholars are those of teacher’s contributions to student gains, teacher’s professional development, school choice, and reforms focused on improving literacy (Koedel et al. 2015; Carnoy and Rothstein 2015). On the government level in education, most studies analyze either the effect of state and national policies (Koedel et al. 2015), or government expenditures (Greenwald et al. 1996) in educational outcomes. Although those studies are fundamental to understanding what leads to higher gains in student outcomes, there is still room to provide additional insight into what matters for students’ achievement. One of the topics that is yet to be explored in the value-added literature in education is the intersection of management practices and student outcomes.
Good management practices have been widely demonstrated to relate to superior organization performance (Bloom and Reenen 2007). In Government Performance: Why Management Matters, Ingraham, Joyce, and Donahue (2003) are categorical in stating that management is central to public performance and the overall effectiveness of governments. Within the public sector, contemporary empirical studies focusing on management practices have revealed critical aspects associated with increased results (Rasul and Rogger 2018; Rasul et al. 2018).
In this study, we aim to understand how mid-level management practices vary within a government and how are they related to educational outcomes. According to the education production function, student achievement gains in regions that have similar inputs should be fairly similar. However, we believe, based on recent studies (e.g., Carnoy et al. 2017), that there is variability in student achievement gains across regions with the same level of inputs. Grounded on several theoretical and empirical studies, we hypothesize that managerial practices are related to this variation. Management practices have been found to vary not only across governments, but within governments as well (Ingraham, Joyce and Donahue 2003), and thus we focus on comparing practices between regional departments of education.
We argue that both the federalist setting of Brazil, and the unique characteristics of the state of Ceará provide a compelling case to investigate the relationship between management practices and student achievement. We do this by using an explanatory sequential mixed method design to quantitatively identify differences in student achievement gains through regional departments of education, and then qualitatively assess if those differences are related to management. In the initial phase of the study, we use a fixed-effect regression model to measure the variation of students’ test score gains in Ceará’s regional education departments and identify which are the consistently top and bottom performers. In the qualitative phase, we interview those identified regionals to collect in-depth data that will help us understand which managerial practices are related to differences in student achievement gains by regional education departments.