Michelle Obama visited an all-girls school in London back in 2009. She met with the pupils again in 2011 and 2012. The school is named after the first English woman doctor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. Simon Burgess has examined performance at the school over the years preceding and following these meetings. He used the results of national examinations (the GCSE) and compared the school’s results with those from the rest of London’s schools. A sharp uptick in performance, which later returned to baseline, was seen in the ‘intervention’ school, but not in the controls. Burgess used a difference-in-difference type approach in a multivariate statistical analysis (though a synthetic control may have been even better, as discussed in a previous post). The ‘treatment effect’ was half a standard deviation, which would carry a student destined to achieve eight grade ‘B’s, to achieving a mix of ‘A*’s and ‘A’s. The paper is worth a read – it is really beautifully written and packs a powerful message regarding the beneficial effect of aspirations. The First Lady did not tell her listeners that getting good grades is easy. She said it’s hard, but ‘you can do it’. Most of the pupils at the school are not white and Michelle Obama would have been a great role model.
— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director
- Burgess S. Michelle Obama and an English school: the power of inspiration. 2016.