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Monday, October 29, 2012

Lessons learned

 

The Effect of Schooling on Cognitive Skills

Magnus Carlsson, Gordon Dahl & Dan-Olof Rooth
NBER Working Paper, October 2012

Abstract:
How schooling affects cognitive skills is a fundamental question for studies of human capital and labor markets. While scores on cognitive ability tests are positively associated with schooling, it has proven difficult to ascertain whether this relationship is causal. Moreover, the effect of schooling is difficult to separate from the confounding factors of age at test date, relative age within a classroom, season of birth, and cohort effects. In this paper, we exploit conditionally random variation in the assigned test date for a battery of cognitive tests which almost all 18 year-old males were required to take in preparation for military service in Sweden. Both age at test date and number of days spent in school vary randomly across individuals after flexibly controlling for date of birth, parish, and expected graduation date (the three variables the military conditioned on when assigning test date). We find an extra 10 days of school instruction raises cognitive scores on crystallized intelligence tests (synonym and technical comprehension tests) by approximately one percent of a standard deviation, whereas extra nonschool days have almost no effect. The benefit of additional school days is homogeneous, with similar effect sizes based on past grades in school, parental education, and father's earnings. In contrast, test scores on fluid intelligence tests (spatial and logic tests) do not increase with additional days of schooling, but do increase modestly with age. These findings have important implications for questions about the malleability of cognitive skills in young adults, schooling models of signaling versus human capital, the interpretation of test scores in wage regressions, and policies related to the length of the school year.

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The relative-age effect and career success: Evidence from corporate CEOs

Qianqian Du, Huasheng Gao & Maurice Levi
Economics Letters, December 2012, Pages 660-662

Abstract:
This paper finds that the number of CEOs born in June and July is disproportionately small relative to the number of CEOs born in other months. Our evidence is consistent with the "relative-age effect" due to school admissions grouping together children with age differences up to one year, with children born in June and July disadvantaged throughout life by being younger than their classmates born in other months. Our results suggest that the relative-age effect has a long-lasting influence on career success.

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Exit examinations, peer academic climate, and adolescents' developmental outcomes

Aprile Benner
Journal of School Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Implications of high school exit examination performance were examined with a sample of 672 racial/ethnic minority students. Exit examination failure in the 10th grade was negatively linked to subsequent grade point average, school engagement, and school belonging one year later, controlling for outcomes prior to taking the examination. Academically incongruent students - those who failed the exit examination but were in schools where their same-race/ethnicity peers were performing well academically - seemed to be at particular risk for struggling grades and poorer socioemotional well-being (e.g., experiencing greater depressive symptoms and loneliness). Findings contribute to the limited research base on exit examinations and highlight the links between exit examination performance and developmental outcomes beyond the oft-studied academic domain.

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Perceived Prevalence of Teasing and Bullying Predicts High School Dropout Rates

Dewey Cornell et al.
Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This prospective study of 276 Virginia public high schools found that the prevalence of teasing and bullying (PTB) as perceived by both 9th-grade students and teachers was predictive of dropout rates for this cohort 4 years later. Negative binomial regression indicated that one standard deviation increases in student- and teacher-reported PTB were associated with 16.5% and 10.8% increases in the number of dropouts, respectively, after controlling for the effects of other predictors, including school size, student body poverty and minority composition, community crime rates, and performance on standardized achievement testing. The predictive values of student and teacher perceptions of PTB were comparable in magnitude to the predictive values for other commonly recognized correlates of dropout rates. These results provide new evidence that the prevalence of peer victimization in high school is an important factor in high school academic performance.

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Mind the Gap: Organizational Learning and Improvement in an Underperforming Urban System

Kara Finnigan & Alan Daly
American Journal of Education, November 2012, Pages 41-71

Abstract:
Drawing on the theoretical lens of organizational learning, and utilizing the methodological approaches of social network and case-study analyses, our exploratory study examines whether schools under sanction exhibit the necessary processes, relationships, and social climates that support organizational learning and improvement. We also investigated the degree to which length of time under sanction affects the processes, relationships, and social climates of schools as well as the extent to which the relationships and climate of the larger district facilitate or hinder improvement in schools under sanction. Results indicate sparse ties within these schools, suggesting limited connectedness of staff with greater connectivity in the school that was newly placed on sanction. We also found school climates that did not support the type of collaboration necessary to bring about organizational learning and improvement. Finally, we found that a negative social climate and weak underlying relationships between district leaders inhibited the flow of ideas and practices district-wide, especially to these low-performing schools. These findings have important implications for school and district improvement under high-stakes accountability policies.

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An Estimation of the Advantage of Charter over Public Schools

Luis Miguel Doncel, Jorge Sainz & Ismael Sanz
Kyklos, November 2012, Pages 442-463

Abstract:
This paper presents new evidence on the differences in quality and achievement of public, private, and charter schools by using the educational outcomes for the more than 1,200 schools of the Madrid region over the period 2005-2009. By applying an external test including three different areas, mathematics, writing, and language, the evolution of the achievement of the pupils in the three different types of schools, public, charter, and private, are analyzed. Our results show that charter and, especially, private schools attain better results than public schools and are more responsive to its academic evolution, both at a lower cost. Private schools do their best to converge to the leading schools in their district in the previous year, whereas public schools do not seem to do so. This result holds even after controlling for the number of immigrants in the school, the age of the school, and its size. Also, the results seem quite robust, since we tested the relevance of different variables such as immigration, socioeconomic status, and foreign students and we obtained results that support our main hypothesis.

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"You Pay Your Share, We'll Pay Our Share": The College Cost Burden and the Role of Race, Income, and College Assets

William Elliott & Terri Friedline
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Changes in financial aid policies raise questions about students being asked to pay too much for college and whether parents' college savings for their children helps reduce the burden on students to pay for college. Using trivariate probit analysis with predicted probabilities, in this exploratory study we find recent changes in the financial aid system place a higher responsibility on African American, Latino/Hispanic, and moderate-income students to pay for college themselves. We also find when parents open a savings account, start a state-sponsored savings plan, or open a college investment fund students are less likely to pay for college with student contributions. Therefore, we suggest in addition to grants and scholarships, policies that encourage accumulation of savings for college among minority and lower income families may help reduce the college cost burden they experience.

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The Early Decision Option in College Admission and Its Impact on Student Diversity

Heather Antecol & Janet Kiholm Smith
Journal of Law and Economics, February 2012, Pages 217-249

Abstract:
Colleges and universities that adopt early decision (ED) as an admission practice can generate additional resources by attracting wealthier students who make binding commitments to attend and forgo shopping for competing aid offers. An unanswered question is whether the resources generated from price discrimination are used by schools during the regular admission process to attract more diverse students. Using a sample of private national universities and liberal arts colleges, we model the choice to adopt an ED program and its impact on students' racial and geographic diversity. We find that schools facing more competition for students are more likely to adopt an ED program. The overall heterogeneity of students is lower for schools that adopt ED, and heterogeneity decreases as schools enroll larger percentages of students through ED. Higher ED enrollment percentages appear to strongly and negatively affect Asian American and Hispanic students and positively affect white students.

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Improving the Targeting of Treatment: Evidence from College Remediation

Judith Scott-Clayton, Peter Crosta & Clive Belfield
NBER Working Paper, October 2012

Abstract:
At an annual cost of roughly $7 billion nationally, remedial coursework is one of the single largest interventions intended to improve outcomes for underprepared college students. But like a costly medical treatment with non-trivial side effects, the value of remediation overall depends upon whether those most likely to benefit can be identified in advance. Our analysis uses administrative data and a rich predictive model to examine the accuracy of remedial screening tests, either instead of or in addition to using high school transcript data to determine remedial assignment. We find that roughly one in four test-takers in math and one in three test-takers in English are severely mis-assigned under current test-based policies, with mis-assignments to remediation much more common than mis-assignments to college-level coursework. We find that using high school transcript information - either instead of or in addition to test scores - could significantly reduce the prevalence of assignment errors. Further, we find that the choice of screening device has significant implications for the racial and gender composition of both remedial and college-level courses. Finally, we find that if institutions took account of students' high school performance, they could remediate substantially fewer students without lowering success rates in college-level courses.

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Public education spending in a globalized world: Is there a shift in priorities across educational stages?

Thushyanthan Baskaran & Zohal Hessami
International Tax and Public Finance, October 2012, Pages 677-707

Abstract:
This paper studies the effect of globalization on public expenditures allocated to different stages of education. First, we derive theoretically that globalization's influence on education expenditures depends on the type of government. For benevolent governments, the model suggests that expenditures for higher education will increase and expenditures for basic education will decline with deepening economic integration. For Leviathan governments, on the other hand, the effects of globalization on public education spending cannot be unambiguously predicted. In the second part of the paper, we empirically analyze globalization's influence on primary, secondary, and tertiary education expenditures with panel data covering 104 countries over the 1992-2006 period. The results indicate that globalization has led in both industrialized and developing countries to more spending for secondary and tertiary and to less spending for primary education.

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Benefits of educational attainment on adult fluid cognition: International evidence from three birth cohorts

Sean Clouston et al.
International Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Background: Educational attainment is highly correlated with social inequalities in adult cognitive health; however, the nature of this correlation is in dispute. Recently, researchers have argued that educational inequalities are an artefact of selection by individual differences in prior cognitive ability, which both drives educational attainment and tracks across the rest of the life course. Although few would deny that educational attainment is at least partly determined by prior cognitive ability, a complementary, yet controversial, view is that education has a direct causal and lasting benefit on cognitive development.

Methods: We use observational data from three birth cohorts, with cognition measured in adolescence and adulthood. Ordinary least squares regression was used to model the relationship between adolescent cognition and adult fluid cognition and to test the sensitivity of our analyses to sample selection, projection and backdoor biases using propensity score matching.

Results: We find that having a university education is correlated with higher fluid cognition in adulthood, after adjustment for adolescent cognition. We do not find that adolescent cognition, gender or parental social class consistently modify this effect; however, women benefited more in the 1946 sample from Great Britain.

Conclusions: In all three birth cohorts, substantial educational benefit remained after adjustment for adolescent cognition and parental social class, offsetting an effect equivalent of 0.5 to 1.5 standard deviations lower adolescent cognition. We also find that the likelihood of earning a university degree depends in part on adolescent cognition, gender and parental social class. We conclude that inequalities in adult cognition derive in part from educational experiences after adolescence.

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Longer-Term Impacts of Mentoring, Educational Services, and Learning Incentives: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in the United States

Núria Rodríguez-Planas
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, October 2012, Pages 121-139

Abstract:
This paper reports on a randomized evaluation of a program designed to improve high school graduation and postsecondary education enrollment among low-performing high school students. Treated youths were offered mentoring, educational services, and financial rewards. The program was evaluated when the youths were 19, 21, and 24 years old. Treated youths obtained their high school diplomas earlier and were more likely than controls to attend postsecondary education. Five years after the end of the program, we find no significant overall effects of this intervention on employment outcomes. The program improved outcomes to a greater extent for the female enrollees than the male ones.

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Does Raising the School Leaving Age Reduce Teacher Effort? Evidence from a Policy Experiment

Colin Green & María Navarro Paniagua
Economic Inquiry, October 2012, Pages 1018-1030

Abstract:
This paper examines the effect of an increase in the compulsory school leaving age on a measure of high school teachers' effort. Differences-in-Differences estimates using count data methods demonstrate that the policy led to teachers increasing their hours of sickness absence by roughly 15%. This result implies that raising the compulsory school leaving age reduces teaching inputs, and hence schooling quality. A policy implication is that these laws should be coupled with measures to compensate teachers for the additional disutility. This also suggests that instrumental variable estimates of returns to education that utilize these changes for identification may be downwardly biased.

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Teacher Quality Policy When Supply Matters

Jesse Rothstein
NBER Working Paper, September 2012

Abstract:
Recent proposals would strengthen the dependence of teacher pay and retention on performance, in order to attract those who will be effective teachers and repel those who will not. I model the teacher labor market, incorporating dynamic self-selection, noisy performance measurement, and Bayesian learning. Simulations indicate that labor market interactions are important to the evaluation of alternative teacher contracts. Typical bonus policies have very small effects on selection. Firing policies can have larger effects, if accompanied by substantial salary increases. However, misalignment between productivity and measured performance nearly eliminates the benefits while preserving most of the costs.

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A Randomized Trial of Motivational Interviewing to Improve Middle School Students' Academic Performance

Gerald Gill Strait et al.
Journal of Community Psychology, November 2012, Pages 1032-1039

Abstract:
Motivational interviewing (MI) is an effective method of promoting change in adults, but research on adolescents is limited. This study tests the efficacy of MI for promoting academic achievement in middle school students. Participants were 103 6th-, 7th, and 8th-grade students randomly assigned to either a MI (n = 50) or a waitlist control condition (n = 53). Students in the MI condition participated in a single MI session during the 7th or 8th week of the second semester. In comparison to the control group, students who received MI demonstrated significant improvements in their class participation, overall positive academic behavior, and significantly higher 4th quarter math grades. Thus, consistent with other studies finding single session effects of MI, a single MI session can have beneficial effects on academic behaviors. Pending further study and replication of these findings, MI could become an efficient and effective new counseling approach for improving academic performance.

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Not just any path: Implications of identity-based motivation for disparities in school outcomes

Daphna Oyserman
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Low-income and minority children aspire to school success and expect to attend college. These aspirations and expectations matter-predicting college attendance and graduation when present and failure to attend college otherwise. But aspiring to college does not necessarily result in relevant behavior; many children with high aspirations do not take sufficient action to work toward their school goals. This paper uses identity-based motivation theory (IBM) to predict that school-focused expectations and aspirations predict action if at the moment of judgment, they are accessible (come to mind) and feel relevant. Relevance is operationalized in three ways. (1) Feeling congruent with important social identities (e.g., race-ethnicity, social class), (2) feeling connected with relevant behavioral strategies (studying, asking questions), and (3) providing an interpretation of difficulties along the way as implying task importance, not impossibility. Family assets and child savings are likely to influence each element of identity relevance.

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Incentive Strength and Teacher Productivity: Evidence from a Group-Based Teacher Incentive Pay System

Scott Imberman & Michael Lovenheim
NBER Working Paper, October 2012

Abstract:
Using data from a group incentive program that provides cash bonuses to teachers whose students perform well on standardized tests, we estimate the impact of incentive strength on student achievement. These awards are based on the performances of students within a grade, school and subject, providing substantial variation in group size. We use the share of students in a grade-subject enrolled in a teacher's classes as a proxy for incentive strength since, as the teacher share increases, a teacher's impact on the probability of award receipt rises. We find that student achievement improves when a teacher becomes responsible for more students post program implementation: mean effects are between 0.01 and 0.02 standard deviations for a 10 percentage point increase in share for math, English and social studies, although mean science estimates are small and are not statistically significant. As predicted in our theoretical model, we also find larger effects at smaller shares that fall towards zero as share increases. For all four subjects studied, effect sizes start at 0.05 to 0.09 standard deviations for a 10 percentage point increase in share when share is initially close to zero and fade out as share increases. These findings suggest that small groups provide productivity gains over large groups. Further, they suggest that the lack of effects found in US teacher incentive pay experiments probably are in some part due to specific aspects of program design rather than failure of teachers to respond to incentives more generally.

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The Impact of College on Migration: Evidence from the Vietnam Generation

Ofer Malamud & Abigail Wozniak
Journal of Human Resources, Fall 2012, Pages 913-950

Abstract:
We examine the causal effect of education on migration using variation in college attainment due to draft-avoidance behavior during the Vietnam War. We use national and state-level induction risk to identify both college attainment and veteran status for men observed in the 1980 Census. 2SLS estimates imply that additional years of college significantly increased the likelihood that affected men resided outside their birth states later in life. Most of our estimates suggest a causal impact of higher education on migration that is larger in magnitude but not significantly different from the OLS estimates.

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Do Schooling Laws Matter? Evidence from the Introduction of Compulsory Attendance Laws in the United States

Karen Clay, Jeff Lingwall & Melvin Stephens
NBER Working Paper, October 2012

Abstract:
This paper examines the effects of introducing compulsory attendance laws on the schooling of U.S. children for three overlapping time periods: 1880-1927, 1890-1927, and 1898-1927. The previous literature finds little effect of the laws, which is somewhat surprising given that the passage of these laws coincided with rising attendance. Using administrative panel data, this paper finds that laws passed after 1880 had significant effects on enrollment and attendance. Laws passed after 1890, for which both administrative and retrospective census data are available, had significant effects on enrollment, attendance, and educational outcomes. In both cases, the timing of increases in enrollment and attendance is consistent with a causal effect of the laws. For men in the 1898-1927 period who reported positive wage income in the 1940 census, compulsory attendance laws increased schooling and wage income. The OLS estimates of the return to a year of schooling are 8 percent and the IV estimates are 11 to 14 percent.

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Effects of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on Child Behavior Problems

Catherine Bradshaw, Tracy Waasdorp & Philip Leaf
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objective: School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) is a universal prevention strategy currently implemented in >16 000 schools across the United States. SWPBIS intends to reduce students' behavior problems by altering staff behaviors and developing systems and supports to meet children's behavioral needs. The current study reports intervention effects on child behaviors and adjustment from an effectiveness trial of SWPBIS.

Methods: The sample of 12 344 elementary school children was 52.9% male, 45.1% African American, and 46.1% Caucasian. Approximately 49% received free or reduced-priced meals, and 12.9% received special education services at baseline. The trial used a group randomized controlled effectiveness design implemented in 37 elementary schools. Multilevel analyses were conducted on teachers' ratings of children's behavior problems, concentration problems, social-emotional functioning, prosocial behavior, office discipline referrals, and suspensions at 5 time points over the course of 4 school years.

Results: The multilevel results indicated significant effects of SWPBIS on children's behavior problems, concentration problems, social-emotional functioning, and prosocial behavior. Children in SWPBIS schools also were 33% less likely to receive an office discipline referral than those in the comparison schools. The effects tended to be strongest among children who were first exposed to SWPBIS in kindergarten.

Conclusions: These findings provide support for the hypothesized reduction in behavior problems and improvements in prosocial behavior and effective emotion regulation after training in SWPBIS. The SWPBIS framework appears to be a promising approach for reducing problems and promoting adjustment among elementary school children.

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School readiness in children living in non-parental care: Impacts of Head Start

Shannon Lipscomb et al.
Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current study examines the effects of Head Start on the development of school readiness outcomes for children living in non-parental care. Data were obtained from the Head Start Impact Study, a randomized controlled trial of Head Start conducted with a nationally representative sample of Head Start programs and families. The sample included 253 children living in non-parental care (defined as a primary caregiver who self-identified as someone other than a biological, adoptive, or step-parent), who experienced elevated rates of child and family risk factors. Results revealed modest direct short-term and indirect longer-term impacts of Head Start on school readiness outcomes (increased pre-academic skills, more positive teacher-child relationships, and reductions in behavior problems) for children living in non-parental care. Limitations of this study and directions for future research are discussed.

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Citizen Perceptions of Government Service Quality: Evidence from Public Schools

Matthew Chingos, Michael Henderson & Martin West
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, October 2012, Pages 411-445

Abstract:
Conventional models of democratic accountability hinge on citizens' ability to evaluate government performance accurately. In recent years, public reporting of governmental performance has expanded in many policy domains, potentially enhancing citizen capacities to make accurate evaluations. Yet there is little evidence on the degree to which citizen perceptions correspond to actual service quality. Using survey data, we find that citizens' perceptions of the quality of specific public schools reflect available information about the level of student achievement in those schools. The relationship between perceived and actual school quality is two to three times stronger for parents of school-age children, who have the most contact with schools and arguably the strongest incentive to be informed. A regression discontinuity analysis of an oversample of Florida residents confirms that public accountability systems can have a causal effect on citizen perceptions of service quality, particularly for those with fewer alternative sources of relevant information.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM