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Friday, January 11, 2013

A terrible thing to waste

 

The Missing "One-Offs": The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low Income Students

Caroline Hoxby & Christopher Avery
NBER Working Paper, December 2012

Abstract:
We show that the vast majority of very high-achieving students who are low-income do not apply to any selective college or university. This is despite the fact that selective institutions would often cost them less, owing to generous financial aid, than the resource-poor two-year and non-selective four-year institutions to which they actually apply. Moreover, high-achieving, low-income students who do apply to selective institutions are admitted and graduate at high rates. We demonstrate that these low-income students' application behavior differs greatly from that of their high-income counterparts who have similar achievement. The latter group generally follows the advice to apply to a few "par" colleges, a few "reach" colleges, and a couple of "safety" schools. We separate the low-income, high-achieving students into those whose application behavior is similar to that of their high-income counterparts ("achievement-typical" behavior) and those whose apply to no selective institutions ("income-typical" behavior). We show that income-typical students do not come from families or neighborhoods that are more disadvantaged than those of achievement-typical students. However, in contrast to the achievement-typical students, the income-typical students come from districts too small to support selective public high schools, are not in a critical mass of fellow high achievers, and are unlikely to encounter a teacher or schoolmate from an older cohort who attended a selective college. We demonstrate that widely-used policies - college admissions staff recruiting, college campus visits, college access programs - are likely to be ineffective with income-typical students, and we suggest policies that will be effective must depend less on geographic concentration of high achievers.

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Non-Cognitive Ability, Test Scores, and Teacher Quality: Evidence from 9th Grade Teachers in North Carolina

Kirabo Jackson
NBER Working Paper, December 2012

Abstract:
This paper presents a model where students have cognitive and non-cognitive ability and a teacher's effect on long-run outcomes is a combination of her effect on both ability types. Conditional on cognitive scores, an underlying non-cognitive factor associated with student absences, suspensions, grades, and grade progression, is strongly correlated with long-run educational attainment, arrests, and earnings in survey data. In administrative data teachers have meaningful causal effects on both test-scores and this non-cognitive factor. Calculations indicate that teacher effects based on test scores alone fail to identify many excellent teachers, and may greatly understate the importance of teachers on adult outcomes.

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The Effect of Evaluation on Teacher Performance

Eric Taylor & John Tyler
American Economic Review, December 2012, Pages 3628-3651

Abstract:
Teacher performance evaluation has become a dominant theme in school reform efforts. Yet, whether evaluation changes the performance of teachers, the focus of this paper, is unknown. Instead, evaluation has largely been studied as an input to selective dismissal decisions. We study mid-career teachers for whom we observe an objective measure of productivity -- value-added to student achievement -- before, during, and after evaluation. We find teachers are more productive in post-evaluation years, with the largest improvements among teachers performing relatively poorly ex-ante. The results suggest teachers can gain information from evaluation and subsequently develop new skills, increase long-run effort, or both.

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A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities

Christopher Avery et al.
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We present a method of ranking U.S. undergraduate programs based on students' revealed preferences. When a student chooses a college among those that have admitted him, that college "wins" his "tournament." Our method efficiently integrates the information from thousands of such tournaments. We implement the method using data from a national sample of high-achieving students. We demonstrate that this ranking method has strong theoretical properties, eliminating incentives for colleges to adopt strategic, inefficient admissions policies to improve their rankings. We also show empirically that our ranking (i) is not vulnerable to strategic manipulation; (ii) similar regardless of whether we control for variables, such as net cost, that vary among a college's admits; (iii) similar regardless of whether we account for students selecting where to apply, including Early Decision. We exemplify multiple rankings for different types of students who have preferences that vary systematically.

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University Competition, Grading Standards, and Grade Inflation

Sergey Popov & Dan Bernhardt
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
We develop a model of strategic grade determination by universities distinguished by their distributions of student academic abilities. Universities choose grading standards to maximize the total wages of graduates, taking into account how the grading standards affect firms' productivity assessment and job placement. We identify conditions under which better universities set lower grading standards, exploiting the fact that firms cannot distinguish between "good" and "bad" "A"s. In contrast, a social planner sets stricter standards at better universities. We show how increases in skilled jobs drive grade inflation, and determine when grading standards fall faster at better schools.

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Experience and the Class Size Effect - Experimental Evidence

Steffen Mueller
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We analyze teacher experience as a moderating factor for the effect of class size reduction on student achievement in the early grades using data from the Tennessee STAR experiment with random assignment of teachers and students to classes of different size. The analysis is motivated by the high costs of class size reductions and the need to identify the circumstances under which this investment is most rewarding. We find a class size effect only for senior teachers. The effect exists at all deciles of the achievement distribution but is less pronounced at lower deciles. We further show that senior teachers outperform rookies only in small classes. Interestingly, the class size effect is likely due to a higher quality of instruction in small classes.

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Racial Mismatch in the Classroom: Beyond Black-white Differences

Patrick McGrady & John Reynolds
Sociology of Education, January 2013, Pages 3-17

Abstract:
Previous research demonstrates that students taught by teachers of the same race and ethnicity receive more positive behavioral evaluations than students taught by teachers of a different race/ethnicity. Many researchers view these findings as evidence that teachers, mainly white teachers, are racially biased due to preferences stemming from racial stereotypes that depict some groups as more academically oriented than others. Most of this research has been based on comparisons of only black and white students and teachers and does not directly test if other nonwhite students fare better when taught by nonwhite teachers. Analyses of Asian, black, Hispanic, and white 10th graders in the 2002 Education Longitudinal Study confirm that the effects of mismatch often depend on the racial/ethnic statuses of both the teacher and the student, controlling for a variety of school and student characteristics. Among students with white teachers, Asian students are usually viewed more positively than white students, while black students are perceived more negatively. White teachers' perceptions of Hispanic students do not typically differ from those of white students. Postestimation comparisons of slopes indicate that Asian students benefit (perceptionwise) from having white teachers, but they reveal surprisingly few instances when black students would benefit (again, perceptionwise) from having more nonwhite teachers.

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Algebra for 8th Graders: Evidence on its Effects from 10 North Carolina Districts

Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd & Jacob Vigdor
NBER Working Paper, December 2012

Abstract:
This paper examines the effects of policies that increase the number of students who take the first course in algebra in 8th grade, rather than waiting until 9th grade. Extending previous research that focused on the Charlotte-Mecklenberg school system, we use data for the 10 largest districts in North Carolina. We identify the effects of accelerating the timetable for taking algebra by using data on multiple cohorts grouped by decile of prior achievement and exploiting the fact that policy-induced shifts in the timing of algebra occur at different times in different districts to different deciles of students. The expanded data make it possible to examine heterogeneity across students in the effect of taking algebra early. We find negative effects among students in the bottom 60% of the prior achievement distribution. In addition, we find other sources of heterogeneity in effects.

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The Effects of Texas's Targeted Pre-Kindergarten Program on Academic Performance

Rodney Andrews, Paul Jargowsky & Kristin Kuhne
NBER Working Paper, December 2012

Abstract:
There has been a resurgence in research that investigates the efficacy of early investments as a means of reducing gaps in academic performance. However, the strongest evidence for these effects comes from experimental evaluations of small, highly enriched programs. We add to this literature by assessing the extent to which a large-scale public program, Texas's targeted pre-Kindergarten (pre-K), affects scores on math and reading achievement tests, the likelihood of being retained in grade, and the probability that a student receives special education services. We find that having participated in Texas's targeted pre-K program is associated with increased scores on the math and reading sections of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), reductions in the likelihood of being retained in grade, and reductions in the probability of receiving special education services. We also find that participating pre-K increases mathematics scores for students who take the Spanish version of the TAAS tests. These results show that even modest, public pre-K program implemented at scale can have important effects on students educational achievement.

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Is it Just a Bad Class? Assessing the Long-term Stability of Estimated Teacher Performance

Dan Goldhaber & Michael Hansen
Economica, forthcoming

Abstract:
A number of teacher workforce policies implicitly assume that job performance is a relatively stable attribute within teachers. We use longitudinal data on 5th grade teachers in North Carolina to assess this using value-added measures (VAMs) of job performance. We find that there is a permanent component of teacher performance that is stable in teachers over long periods - implying that workforce policies selecting teachers based on VAMs could effectively improve student achievement. But importantly, our time series model suggests that the permanent component of performance is considerably smaller than that which is often used to estimate workforce policy impacts.

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Classroom Peer Effects and Student Achievement

Mary Burke & Tim Sass
Journal of Labor Economics, January 2013, Pages 51-82

Abstract:
We analyze the impact of classroom peers' ability (measured by their individual fixed effects) on student achievement for all Florida public school students in grades 3-10 over a 6-year period. We control for both student and teacher fixed effects, thereby alleviating biases due to endogenous assignment of both peers and teachers. Under linear-in-means specifications, estimated peer effects are small to nonexistent, but we find some sizable and significant peer effects within nonlinear models. We also find that classroom peers, as compared with the broader group of grade-level peers at the same school, exert a greater influence on individual achievement gains.

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Responses of Private and Public Schools to Voucher Funding

Randall Filer & Daniel Münich
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
The post-communist Czech Republic provides a laboratory in which to investigate possible responses to the adoption of universal education vouchers. Private schools appear to have arisen in response to distinct market incentives. They are more common in fields where public school inertia has resulted in an under-supply of available slots. They are also more common where the public schools appear to be doing a worse job in their primary educational mission, as demonstrated by the success rate of academic secondary schools in obtaining university admission for their graduates. Public schools facing private competition improve their performance. They spend a larger fraction of their resources on classroom instruction and significantly reduce class sizes. Furthermore, Czech public academic secondary schools facing significant private competition by 1996 substantially improved their relative success in obtaining university admissions for their graduates between 1996 and 1998. The rise of private schools, however, also spurred manoeuvring by the administrations of public schools to preserve these schools' entrenched position, pointing out how important it is that any voucher system be simple and leave as little opportunity as possible for discretionary actions on the part of implementing officials.

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Can failure succeed? Using racial subgroup rules to analyze the effect of school accountability failure on student performance

David Sims
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many school accountability programs are built on the premise that the sanctions attached to failure will produce higher future student achievement. Furthermore, such programs often include subgroup achievement rules that attempt to hold schools accountable for the performance of all demographic classes of students. This paper looks at two issues: the degree to which such rules increase the likelihood of school failure, and the effect of failure to meet a performance standard on subsequent student achievement. Using data from California's state accountability program, I find that subgroup rules lead to otherwise similar schools having different probabilities of failure. I also find that subgroup induced failure leads to lower future student achievement under both the state's system and its implementation of No Child Left Behind. This implies that small demographic differences play a large role in how schools are judged and how they perform under current accountability systems.

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High School Transfer Students and the Transition to College: Timing and the Structure of the School Year

April Sutton, Chandra Muller & Amy Langenkamp
Sociology of Education, January 2013, Pages 63-82

Abstract:
The timing of a high school transfer may shape students' transitions to college through its (mis)alignment with the structure of the school year. A transfer that occurs during the summer interrupts the four-year high school career, whereas a transfer that occurs midyear disrupts both the four-year high school career and the structure of the school year. Using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS), the investigators find that the penalty suffered after the transfer depends on the degree to which students' high school pathways synchronize with the curricular and extracurricular structure of the school year. Midyear transfer students appear to suffer the greatest postsecondary matriculation penalty. Students who transfer midyear are less likely to attend a four-year college compared with nontransfer and summer transfer students, whereas summer transfer students are less likely to attend a highly selective four-year college compared with their nontransfer counterparts. Curricular and extracurricular disruptions that transfer students experience after their school move explain some, but not all, of the negative associations observed between transferring and the transition to college. Directions for future research and the theoretical and policy implications of the results are discussed.

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How Can Cross-Country Differences in the Practice of Grade Retention Be Explained? A Closer Look at National Educational Policy Factors

Mieke Goos et al.
Comparative Education Review, February 2013, Pages 54-84

Abstract:
This study investigates the extent to which national educational policy factors can explain differences in the probability of students repeating a grade in primary and lower-secondary education across OECD member countries. Data from the PISA 2009 study, the OECD Education at a Glance brochures, and the TALIS 2007 study were analyzed by means of three-level logistic regression models. The results indicate that a remarkable amount of variation in the likelihood of student grade retention lies at the country level. National educational policy factors, however, only partly explain this variation, indicating that traditions and societal beliefs regarding the benefits of grade retention also play a role in the explanation for international differences in retention.

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Science and Mathematics Achievement and the Importance of Classroom Composition: Multicountry Analysis Using TIMSS 2007

Amita Chudgar, Thomas Luschei & Yisu Zhou
American Journal of Education, February 2013, Pages 295-316

Abstract:
In this multicountry analysis, we generate a student-level measure of socioeconomic status (SES) "mixing" to understand the benefits or pitfalls of placing low-SES children with diverse peers. We conduct this analysis separately for equal and unequal countries that provide the same curriculum to all children regardless of ability level, and we find some surprising similarities. For example, lower mathematics and science test scores are associated with low-SES children in mixed classrooms. We then apply this analysis to the United States, a rich but unequal country where ability-based tracking is common. For the United States, we find that the cross-national patterns are reversed for mathematics, and socioeconomic mixing is beneficial for low-SES children; however, the results for science are not significant.

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Under Pressure? The Effect of Peers on Outcomes of Young Adults

Sandra Black, Paul Devereux & Kjell Salvanes
Journal of Labor Economics, January 2013, Pages 119-153

Abstract:
Teenage peers are perceived as being important, but there is little conclusive evidence demonstrating this. This paper uses data on the population of Norway and idiosyncratic variation in cohort composition within schools to examine the role of peer composition in ninth grade on longer-run outcomes such as IQ scores, teenage childbearing, education, and labor market outcomes. We find that outcomes are influenced by the proportion of females in the grade, and these effects differ by gender. Average age and average mother's education of peers have little impact on teenagers but average father's earnings of peers matters for boys.

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School Choice and Increasing Performance Difference: A Counterfactual Approach

John Östh, Eva Andersson & Bo Malmberg
Urban Studies, February 2013, Pages 407-425

Abstract:
In recent years, structural changes to the school system, including the introduction of independent schools, have increased school choice alternatives in Sweden. Consequently, a large share of today's students attend a school other than the one closest to home. Since the compulsory school system is designed to be free of charge and to offer the same standard of education everywhere, increasing school choice -- hypothetically -- should not increase the between-school variation in grades. In reality, however, between-school variation in grades has increased in recent years. The aim of this paper is to test whether increasing between-school variance can be explained by changes in residential patterns, or if it must be attributed to structural change. Using a counterfactual approach, the students' variations in grades are compared between observed schools of graduation and hypothetical schools of graduation. The multilevel results indicate that school choice seems to increase between-school variation of grades.

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Race, sport and social mobility: Horatio Alger in short pants?

Robert Sean Mackin & Carol Walther
International Review for the Sociology of Sport, December 2012, Pages 670-689

Abstract:
This article addresses sport as a vehicle of social mobility for athletes of all racial backgrounds. Utilizing two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we test two sociological models. The zero-sum model argues that any time spent on sports takes away from time that could be spent on academics, hindering performance in school and ultimately mobility. The developmental model suggests that participation in sport contributes in a variety of ways to the performance of student-athletes in school and in the labor market. We operationalize social mobility by years of education and educational attainment. We find limited support for the developmental model. The results indicate white men and African American men who participate at low and high-levels benefit. Sport participation has no statistically significant influence upon years of education and educational attainment for Hispanic men. We use a Heckman selection model and find that self-selection occurs among (American) football players. We conclude by suggesting future research.

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Timing, Extent, and Type of Child Care and Children's Behavioral Functioning in Kindergarten

Rebekah Levine Coley et al.
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior research has unearthed a link between early education and care (EEC) experiences and worse behavioral functioning for children, yet the research has not clearly delineated whether this link is due to early entry into care (timing), extensive hours of care (extent), or use of center-based care (type). Using a nationally representative sample of children followed from infancy through kindergarten (N ≈ 6,000), we assessed links between EEC timing, extent, and type, and children's kindergarten functioning. Both center-based and full-time preschool predicted heightened behavior problems and more limited learning behaviors in kindergarten, with care type and extent functioning additively. EEC during infancy and toddlerhood showed limited independent links with children's later functioning, but it exacerbated negative associations between preschool and children's kindergarten behaviors.

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School environment and risk preferences: Experimental evidence

Catherine Eckel et al.
Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, December 2012, Pages 265-292

Abstract:
Using a field experiment with high school students, we evaluate the development of risk preferences. Examining the impact of school characteristics on preference development reveals both peer and quality effects. For the peer effect, individuals in schools with a higher percentage of students on free or reduced lunches (hence a higher proportion of low-income peers with whom to interact) are significantly more risk averse. For the quality effect, individuals in schools with smaller class sizes and a higher percentage of educators with advanced degrees have higher, more moderate levels of risk aversion. We further discuss economic, cognitive and emotional development theories of risk preferences. Data show demographic-related patterns: girls are more risk averse on average, while taller and nonwhite individuals are more risk tolerant.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM