Food for Thought

This article on well fed judges was compelling stuff.  It made me think of this paper  by Figlio and Winicki


School accountability systems based on high-stakes testing of students have become ubiquitous in the
United States, and are now federal policy as well. This paper identifies a previously-unresearched method
through which schools faced with potential sanctions may “game the system” in order to have higher
aggregate student test scores than might otherwise be warranted. There exists a well-established link
between nutrition and short-term cognitive functioning. Hence, we investigate whether school districts
exploit this relationship by strategically altering school nutrition menus during testing periods in an
apparent attempt to artificially increase student test scores. Using detailed daily school nutrition data from
a random sample of Virginia school districts, we find that school districts having schools faced with
potential sanctions under Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOL) accountability system apparently
respond by substantially increasing calories in their menus on testing days, while those without such
immediate pressure do not change their menus. Suggestive evidence indicates that the school districts
who do this the most experience the largest increases in pass rates.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

4 thoughts on “Food for Thought”

  1. And that’s why the Chicago school which allows no home lunches and makes them all eat Filboid Studge is doing so poorly?

  2. how is feeding kids more “gaming the system” and “artificially” raising scores? they don’t suddenly know stuff they didn’t before. if anything, properly feeding our children would provide a more accurate accounting of their progress as students.

  3. I guess it would be too much to ask that the schools feed kids enough so that they can perform well and learn every day.

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