Findings

Tested

Kevin Lewis

May 09, 2016

Brief intervention to encourage empathic discipline cuts suspension rates in half among adolescents

Jason Okonofua, David Paunesku & Gregory Walton

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Growing suspension rates predict major negative life outcomes, including adult incarceration and unemployment. Experiment 1 tested whether teachers (n = 39) could be encouraged to adopt an empathic rather than punitive mindset about discipline — to value students’ perspectives and sustain positive relationships while encouraging better behavior. Experiment 2 tested whether an empathic response to misbehavior would sustain students’ (n = 302) respect for teachers and motivation to behave well in class. These hypotheses were confirmed. Finally, a randomized field experiment tested a brief, online intervention to encourage teachers to adopt an empathic mindset about discipline. Evaluated at five middle schools in three districts (Nteachers = 31; Nstudents = 1,682), this intervention halved year-long student suspension rates from 9.6% to 4.8%. It also bolstered respect the most at-risk students, previously suspended students, perceived from teachers. Teachers’ mindsets about discipline directly affect the quality of teacher–student relationships and student suspensions and, moreover, can be changed through scalable intervention.

---------------------

Academics vs. Athletics: Career Concerns for NCAA Division I Coaches

Christopher Avery, Brian Cadman & Gavin Cassar

NBER Working Paper, March 2016

Abstract:
We analyze the promotions and firings of NCAA Division 1 college basketball and college football coaches to assess whether these coaches are rewarded for the academic performance of their players in promotion and retention decisions. We find that an increase in Academic Progress Rate, as measured by the NCAA, for a college team in either sport significantly reduces the probability that the coach is fired at the end of the season. We find little to no evidence that an increase in the Academic Progress Rate enhances the chances of advancement (in the form of outside job offers) for these coaches.

---------------------

Labor Market Returns to the GED Using Regression Discontinuity Analysis

Christopher Jepsen, Peter Mueser & Kenneth Troske

Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Abstract:
We evaluate returns to General Educational Development (GED) certification for high school dropouts using state administrative data. We apply a fuzzy regression discontinuity method to account for test takers retaking the test. For women we find that GED certification has no statistically significant effect on either employment or earnings. For men we find a significant increase in earnings in the second year after taking the test but no impact in subsequent years. GED certification increases postsecondary school enrollment by 4–8 percentage points. Our results differ from regression discontinuity approaches that fail to account for test retaking.

---------------------

Explaining the Evolution of Education Attainment in the US

Rui Castro & Daniele Coen-Pirani

American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We study the evolution of educational attainment of the 1932–1972 cohorts using a human capital investment model with heterogeneous learning ability. Inter-cohort variation in schooling is driven by changes in skill prices, tuition, and education quality over time, and average learning ability across cohorts. Under static expectations the model accounts for the main empirical patterns. Rising skill prices for college explain the rapid increase in college graduation till the 1948 cohort. The decline in average learning ability, calibrated to match the evolution of test scores, explains half of the stagnation in college graduation between the 1948 and 1972 cohorts.

---------------------

Student Loans or Marriage? A Look at the Highly Educated

Dora Gicheva

Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
I examine the relationship between student loans and marital status among individuals considering or pursuing graduate management education. Using data from a panel survey of registrants for the Graduate Management Admission Test, I show that the amount of accumulated student debt is negatively related to the probability of first marriage. The strength of the relationship diminishes with age, more so for women than for men. At the median age for the sample (24 years at test registration), the estimated decrease over a seven-year period is between 3 and 4 percentage points per $10,000 in student debt for men and a percentage point lower in absolute value for women. I use information on reported marriage expectations to show evidence that education expenditures and the amount of debt are correlated with anticipated marital status, but borrowers may not have perfect foresight about the long-term consequences of accumulating student debt.

---------------------

The 'Pupil' Factory: Specialization and the Production of Human Capital in Schools

Roland Fryer

NBER Working Paper, April 2016

Abstract:
Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, I conducted a randomized field experiment in fifty traditional public elementary schools in Houston, Texas designed to test the potential productivity benefits of teacher specialization in schools. Treatment schools altered their schedules to have teachers specialize in a subset of subjects in which they have demonstrated relative strength (based on value-add measures and principal observations). The average impact of teacher specialization on student achievement is -0.042 standard deviations in math and -0.034 standard deviations in reading, per year. Students enrolled in special education and those with younger teachers demonstrated marked negative results. I argue that the results are consistent with a model in which the benefits of specialization driven by sorting teachers into a subset of subjects based on comparative advantage is outweighed by inefficient pedagogy due to having fewer interactions with each student. Consistent with this, specialized teachers report providing less attention to individual students (relative to non-specialized teachers), though other mechanisms are possible.

---------------------

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? Investigating Rates and Patterns of Financial Aid Renewal Among College Freshmen

Kelli Bird & Benjamin Castleman

Research in Higher Education, June 2016, Pages 395-422

Abstract:
College affordability continues to be a top concern among prospective students, their families, and policy makers. Prior work has demonstrated that a significant share of prospective students forgo financial aid because they did not complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); recent federal policy efforts have focused on supporting students and their families to successfully file the FAFSA. Despite the fact that students must refile the FAFSA every year to maintain their aid eligibility, there are many fewer efforts to help college students renew their financial aid each year. While prior research has documented the positive effect of financial aid on persistence, we are not aware of previous studies that have documented the rate at which freshman year financial aid recipients successfully refile the FAFSA, particularly students who are in good academic standing and appear well-poised to succeed in college. The goal of our paper is to address this gap in the literature by documenting the rates and patterns of FAFSA renewal. Using the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, we find that roughly 16 % of freshmen Pell Grant recipients in good academic standing do not refile a FAFSA for their sophomore year. Even among Pell Grant recipients in good academic standing who return for sophomore year, nearly 10 % do not refile a FAFSA. Consequently, we estimate that these non-refilers are forfeiting $3,550 in federal student aid that they would have received upon successful FAFSA refiling. Failure to refile a FAFSA is strongly associated with students dropping out later in college and not earning a degree within six years. These results suggest that interventions designed to increase FAFSA refiling may be an effective way to improve college persistence for low-income students.

---------------------

Freshman Year Financial Aid Nudges: An Experiment to Increase FAFSA Renewal and College Persistence

Benjamin Castleman & Lindsay Page

Journal of Human Resources, Spring 2016, Pages 389-415

Abstract:
In this paper we investigate, through a randomized controlled trial design, the impact of a personalized text messaging intervention designed to encourage college freshmen to refile their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and maintain their financial aid for sophomore year. The intervention produced large and positive effects among freshmen at community colleges where text recipients were almost 14 percentage points more likely to remain continuously enrolled through the Spring of sophomore year. By contrast, the intervention did not improve sophomore year persistence among freshmen at four-year institutions among whom the rate of persistence was already high.

---------------------

Do School Report Cards Produce Accountability Through the Ballot Box?

Vladimir Kogan, Stéphane Lavertu & Zachary Peskowitz

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
Public education has been transformed by the widespread adoption of accountability systems that involve the dissemination of school district performance information. Using data from Ohio, we examine if elections serve as one channel through which these accountability systems might lead to improvements in educational quality. We find little evidence that poor performance on widely disseminated state and federal indicators has an impact on school board turnover, the vote share of sitting school board members, or superintendent tenure, suggesting that the dissemination of district performance information puts little (if any) electoral pressure on elected officials to improve student achievement.

---------------------

Are All Schools Created Equal? Learning Environments in Small and Large Public High Schools in New York City

Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel & Matthew Wiswall

Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Over the past two decades, high school reform has been characterized by a belief that “smaller is better.” Much of the expected academic benefit from attending small schools has been credited to their better learning environments. There is little empirical support for this claim, however, and the existing research fails to provide causal evidence. Moreover, recent studies in New York City have shown that students attending newly created small schools do better academically relative to students attending both large and older established small schools. Are these differences in academic outcomes also mirrored by differences in learning environments? In this paper, we address this question by exploring the impact of attending large compared to small high schools on students’ learning environments, considering the differences between small high schools formed in two different eras with different missions and resources. We use a unique data set of school and student-level data from New York City public high school students entering 9th grade in 2008-09 and 2009-10 to examine students’ attitudes about school learning environments along three dimensions: interpersonal relationships, academic expectations and support, and social behavior and safety. While OLS results show that students attending small schools (new and old) perceive better learning environments, instrumenting for selection into these schools challenges those results. In general, it is not clear that small schools provide better learning environments than large schools. Our results challenge the conventional wisdom that the higher academic performance of students in small schools is driven by a better learning environment.

---------------------

The Causes and Consequences of Test Score Manipulation: Evidence from the New York Regents Examinations

Thomas Dee et al.

NBER Working Paper, April 2016

Abstract:
In this paper, we show that the design and decentralized, school-based scoring of New York’s high school exit exams – the Regents Examinations – led to the systematic manipulation of test sores just below important proficiency cutoffs. Our estimates suggest that teachers inflate approximately 40 percent of test scores near the proficiency cutoffs. Teachers are more likely to inflate the scores of high-achieving students on the margin, but low-achieving students benefit more from manipulation in aggregate due to the greater density of these students near the proficiency cutoffs. Exploiting a series of reforms that eliminated score manipulation, we find that inflating a student’s score to fall just above a cutoff increases his or her probability of graduating from high school by 27 percent. These results have important implications for educational attainment of marginal high school graduates. For example, we estimate that the black-white graduation gap is about 5 percent larger in the absence of test score manipulation.

---------------------

What Does It Mean to Be Ranked a “High” or “Low” Value-Added Teacher? Observing Differences in Instructional Quality Across Districts

David Blazar, Erica Litke & Johanna Barmore

American Educational Research Journal, April 2016, Pages 324-359

Abstract:
Education agencies are evaluating teachers using student achievement data. However, very little is known about the comparability of test-based or “value-added” metrics across districts and the extent to which they capture variability in classroom practices. Drawing on data from four urban districts, we found that teachers were categorized differently when compared within versus across districts. In addition, analyses of scores from two observation instruments, as well as qualitative viewing of lesson videos, identified stark differences in instructional practices across districts among teachers who received similar within-district value-added rankings. These patterns were not explained by observable background characteristics of teachers, suggesting that factors beyond labor market sorting likely played a key role.

---------------------

How Schools Structure Opportunity: The Role of Curriculum and Placement in Math Attainment

Will Tyson & Josipa Roksa

Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, June 2016, Pages 124–135

Abstract:
Most of the research on math attainment focuses on whether students begin the 9th grade in algebra 1, geometry, or algebra 2, and how that affects their subsequent progression through math sequences. While providing valuable insights, this focus on vertical differentiation among math courses fails to consider the horizontal differentiation existing at the same math level (e.g., remedial, general, and honors version of the same course). This study uses statewide longitudinal administrative transcript data to examine the consequences of horizontal differentiation in algebra 1, the most common ninth grade math course. Analyses reveal that many students were placed into remedial or honors algebra 1 despite not having corresponding low or high eighth grade math standardized test scores. The consequences of placement into less rigorous math courses were very difficult to overcome, even accounting for eighth grade test scores and ninth grade achievement. In addition, school algebra 1 curriculum was associated with attainment beyond students’ own course placement. These findings offer important insights into how school curricula structure opportunities, with implications for both theory and practice.

---------------------

Faculty Preferences over Unionization: Evidence from Open Letters at Two Research Universities

Joel Waldfogel

NBER Working Paper, April 2016

Abstract:
What determines employee preferences for unionizing their workplaces? A substantial literature addresses this question with surveys on worker attitudes and pay. Unionization drives at the Universities of Minnesota and Washington have given rise to open letters of support or opposition from over 1,000 faculty at Washington and support from over 200 at Minnesota. Combining these expressions with publicly available data on salary, job titles, department affiliation, research productivity, teaching success, and political contributions from over 5,000 faculty, we provide new estimates of the determinants of faculty preferences for unionization at research universities. We find that faculty with higher pay and greater research productivity are less supportive of unionization, even after controlling for job title and department. Attitudes matter as well: after accounting for pay and productivity, faculty in fields documented elsewhere to have more politically liberal participants are more likely to support unionization.

---------------------

Child Temperamental Regulation and Classroom Quality in Head Start: Considering the Role of Cumulative Economic Risk

Kathleen Moritz Rudasill et al.

Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
There is growing recognition that cumulative economic risk places children at higher risk for depressed academic competencies (Crosnoe & Cooper, 2010; NCCP, 2008; Sameroff, 2000). Yet, children’s temperamental regulation and the quality of the early childhood classroom environment have been associated with better academic skills. This study is an examination of prekindergarten classroom quality (instructional support, emotional support, organization) as a moderator between temperamental regulation and early math and literacy skills for children at varying levels of cumulative economic risk. The sample includes children enrolled in Head Start programs drawn from the FACES 2009 study. Three main findings emerged. First, for lower and highest risk children, more instructional support was associated with better math performance when children had high levels of temperamental regulation but poorer performance when children had low temperamental regulation. Second, among highest risk children, low instructional support was protective for math performance for children with low temperamental regulation and detrimental for those with high temperamental regulation. Third, for highest risk children, high classroom organization predicted better literacy scores for those with high temperamental regulation. Children with low temperamental regulation were expected to perform about the same, regardless of the level of classroom organization. Implications are discussed.

---------------------

A Bargain Half Fulfilled: Teacher Autonomy and Accountability in Traditional Public Schools and Public Charter Schools

Zachary Oberfield

American Educational Research Journal, April 2016, Pages 296-323

Abstract:
Public charter schools (PCS) are thought to succeed because they have greater autonomy and are held more accountable than traditional public schools (TPS). Though teachers are central to this expectation, there is little evidence about whether teachers in PCS enjoy more autonomy and are held more accountable than teachers in TPS. Also, it is unclear what the franchising of the PCS sector — the growth of schools run by educational management organizations (EMOs) — means for teacher autonomy and accountability. Using nationally representative survey data, this article compares teachers’ perceptions of autonomy and accountability in PCS and TPS and in EMO-run and non-EMO-run PCS. It shows that teachers in PCS reported greater autonomy than teachers in TPS; similarly, teachers in non-EMO-run schools indicated greater autonomy than teachers in EMO-run schools. However, there were no differences in perceptions of accountability across these different school types.

---------------------

The Effect of Performance-Based Incentives on Educational Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Steven Levitt, John List & Sally Sadoff

NBER Working Paper, March 2016

Abstract:
We test the effect of performance-based incentives on educational achievement in a low-performing school district using a randomized field experiment. High school freshmen were provided monthly financial incentives for meeting an achievement standard based on multiple measures of performance including attendance, behavior, grades and standardized test scores. Within the design, we compare the effectiveness of varying the recipient of the reward (students or parents) and the incentive structure (fixed rate or lottery). While the overall effects of the incentives are modest, the program has a large and significant impact among students on the threshold of meeting the achievement standard. These students continue to outperform their control group peers a year after the financial incentives end. However, the program effects fade in longer term follow up, highlighting the importance of longer term tracking of incentive programs.

---------------------

Political Determinants of Philanthropic Funding for Urban Schools

Jeffrey Snyder & Sarah Reckhow

Journal of Urban Affairs, forthcoming

Abstract:
K-12 education philanthropy has grown rapidly since 2000, with major funders like the Gates and Walton foundations expanding their grant portfolios. We examine whether and to what degree place-based characteristics help explain funding for local school districts. Using an original database of grants from the 15 largest K-12 education foundations to the largest school districts in 2000, 2005, and 2010, we present three main findings. First, the set of districts receiving the most funds varies over time. Second, foundations tended to give to sites with capacity for reform in 2000; yet by 2010, funders increasingly targeted places embracing philanthropic priorities, including charter schools and Teach for America. Finally, major foundations increasingly gave grants to same districts as other major funders — producing a convergent pattern of funding. These rapid and dramatic changes introduce questions about how foundations and districts interact and whether these funds will produce sustained reforms.

---------------------

Inconvenient Truth? Do Collective Bargaining Agreements Help Explain the Mobility of Teachers within School Districts?

Dan Goldhaber, Lesley Lavery & Roddy Theobald

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
We utilize detailed teacher-level longitudinal data from Washington State to investigate patterns of teacher mobility in districts with different collective bargaining agreement (CBA) transfer provisions. Specifically, we estimate the log odds that teachers of varying experience and effectiveness levels transfer out of their schools to other schools in the district in Washington kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) public schools. We find little consistent evidence relating voluntary transfer provisions in CBAs to patterns in teacher mobility, but do find evidence that patterns in within-district mobility by teacher experience and effectiveness vary between districts that do not use seniority in involuntary transfer decisions and those that use seniority as a tiebreaker or the only factor in these moves. In models that consider teacher experience, the interaction between teacher experience and school disadvantage in teacher transfer decisions is more extreme in districts with strong involuntary seniority transfer protections; novice teachers are even more likely to stay in disadvantaged schools, and veteran teachers are even more likely to leave disadvantaged schools. On the other hand, models that consider value-added measures of teacher effectiveness suggest that more effective teachers are less likely to leave disadvantaged schools in districts that do use seniority in involuntary transfer decisions, that is, seniority transfer provisions could actually make the distribution of output-based measures of quality more equitable. Taken together, these results suggest that seniority transfer provisions may have differential impacts on the distributions of teacher experience and effectiveness.


Sign-in to your National Affairs subscriber account.


Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


subscribe

Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

SUBSCRIBE
Subscribe to National Affairs.