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Discriminating Behavior: Evidence from teachers’ grading bias

Ferman, Bruno and Fontes, Luiz Felipe (2020): Discriminating Behavior: Evidence from teachers’ grading bias.

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Recent evidence has established that non-cognitive skills are key determinants of education and labor outcomes, and are malleable throughout adolescence. However, little is known about the mechanisms producing these results. This paper tests a channel that could explain part of the association between non-cognitive skills and important outcomes: teacher grading discrimination toward student behaviors. Evidence is drawn from a unique data pertaining to students from middle and high-school in Brazilian private schools. Our empirical strategy is based on the contrasting of school-level tests graded by teachers and school-level tests that cover the same content but are graded blindly. Using detailed data on student classroom behaviors and holding constant performance in exams graded blindly, evidence indicates that teachers inflate the grades of better-behaved students while deducting points from worse-behaved ones. These biases are driven by grading discrimination in exams with open questions. Additionally, teachers’ behavior does not appear to be consistent with statistical discrimination.

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