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School System Size And Performance: A Contingency Perspective

Noah E. Friedkin, Juan Necochea

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This paper contains empirical support for a new theory on the relationship between the size and performance of school systems. The theory predicts that the strength and direction of the relationship depend on the socioeconomic status (SES) of school systems. This prediction is supported with data from the California Assessment Program on both schools and districts. We find that as the SES of a school system goes up, the association between the size and performance of school systems goes from negative to positive. We also find that the negative association among low SES school systems is much stronger in magnitude than the positive association among high SES school systems. Thus, it appears that school system size has strong negative effects on performance that are eliminated, but not strongly reversed, in high SES settings.