Class(room) Warfare

Kevin Lewis

March 04, 2011

The Impact of Teacher Collective Bargaining Laws on Student Achievement: Evidence from a New Mexico Natural Experiment

Benjamin Lindy
Yale Law Journal, March 2011, Pages 1130-1191

This Note uses the 1999 sunset and 2003 reauthorization of New Mexico's public employee collective bargaining law to estimate the causal effect of teacher collective bargaining on student achievement. This Note finds that mandatory teacher bargaining laws increase the performance of high-achieving students while simultaneously lowering the performance of poorly achieving students. After establishing this core empirical result, the Note explores its implications for current trends in American education policy and for normative arguments about the role of teachers' unions in public schools.


Peer Effects in Affirmative Action: Evidence from Law Student Performance

John Lott, Mark Ramseyer & Jeffrey Standen
International Review of Law and Economics, forthcoming

In the Grutter case, Justice O'Connor suggested that universities could justifiably try to enroll a "critical mass" of minority students. Enroll fewer than that "critical mass," reason some observers, and minority students will feel too marginalized to perform at their highest levels. In this article, we test whether minority students perform better with other students from their ethnic group in a class or school. To do so, we assemble data on the ethnicity and performance of each student in all classes at two law schools -- for three years at one, and for sixteen years at the other. One school had 3 percent African-Americans, and the other had 2. At these schools, we find no consistent evidence that having additional students from one's ethnic group raises a student's performance. Instead, we find some evidence that having additional ethnic peers lowers performance -- albeit by a very small amount.


Which Students Are Left Behind? The Racial Impacts of the No Child Left Behind Act

John Krieg
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

The No Child Left Behind Act imposes sanctions on schools if the fraction of each of five racial group of students demonstrating proficiency on a high stakes exam falls below a statewide pass rate. This system places pressure on school administrators to redirect educational resources from groups of students most likely to demonstrate proficiency towards those who are marginally below proficient. Using statewide observations of 3rd and 4th grade math tests, this paper demonstrates that students of successful racial groups at schools likely to be sanctioned gain less academically over their subsequent test year than comparable peers at passing schools. This effect is stronger at schools more likely to suffer from NCLB sanctions and is robust to non-random sample selection.


Are High-Quality Schools Enough to Increase Achievement Among the Poor? Evidence from the Harlem Children's Zone

Will Dobbie & Roland Fryer
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, forthcoming

Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), which combines community programs with "No Excuses" charter schools, is one of the most ambitious social experiments to alleviate poverty of our time. We provide the first empirical test of the causal impact of attending the Promise Academy charter schools in HCZ on educational outcomes, with an eye toward informing the long-standing debate on whether schools alone can eliminate the achievement gap or whether the issues that poor children bring to school are too much for educators alone to overcome. Both lottery and instrumental variable identification strategies suggest that the effects of attending the Promise Academy middle school are enough to close the black-white achievement gap in mathematics. The effects in elementary school are large enough to close the racial achievement gap in both mathematics and English Language arts. We conclude by presenting two pieces of evidence that suggest high-quality schools are enough to significantly increase academic achievement among the poor.
Community programs appear neither necessary nor sufficient.


Priceless: The Nonpecuniary Benefits of Schooling

Philip Oreopoulos & Kjell Salvanes
Journal of Economic Perspectives, Winter 2011, Pages 159-184

Increasing wealth provides key motivation for students to forgo earnings and struggle through exams. But, as we argue in this paper, schooling generates many experiences and affects many dimensions of skill that, in turn, affect central aspects of individuals' lives. Schooling not only affects income, but also the degree to which one enjoys work, as well as one's likelihood of being unemployed. It leads individuals to make better decisions about health, marriage, and parenting. It also improves patience, making individuals more goal-oriented and less likely to engage in risky behavior. Schooling improves trust and social interaction, and may offer substantial consumption value to some students. We discuss various mechanisms to explain how these relationships may occur independent of wealth effects and present evidence that nonpecuniary returns to schooling are at least as large as pecuniary ones. Ironically, one explanation why some early school leavers miss out on these high returns is that they lack the very same decision-making skills that more schooling would help improve.


The effect of charter schools on achievement and behavior of public school students

Scott Imberman
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Charter schools have seen dramatic growth over the last decade. However, we know little about how they affect traditional public schools. I look at how charters affect student outcomes in public schools using data from a large urban school district in the southwest. Unlike prior work that relies on school fixed effects, I address the endogenous location of charter schools using an instrumental variables strategy that relies on plausibly exogenous variation in local building supply. Results show that charters induce modest but statistically significant drops in math and language test scores, particularly for elementary students. However, results for middle and high school students show improvements in discipline.


The Effects of Charter High Schools on Educational Attainment

Kevin Booker, Tim Sass, Brian Gill & Ron Zimmer
Journal of Labor Economics, April 2011, Pages 377-415

We analyze the relationship between charter high school attendance and educational attainment in Florida and in Chicago. Controlling for observed student characteristics and test scores, we estimate that among students who attended a charter middle school, those who went on to attend a charter high school were 7-15 percentage points more likely to earn a standard diploma than students who transitioned to a traditional public high school. Similarly, those attending a charter high school were 8-10 percentage points more likely to attend college. We find even larger effects when we treat high school choice as endogenous.


American Mobility and the Expansion of Public Education

John Parman
Journal of Economic History, March 2011, Pages 105-132

Educational institutions and intergenerational mobility are closely related; access to schools is a major determinant of a child's future success. This article offers new insight into this relationship with a study of mobility at the beginning of the United States' expansion of public schools in the early twentieth century. A new intergenerational data set is used to establish high rates of income mobility at the start of the century and a negative relationship between school quality and mobility. Educational attainment estimates reveal that this was a product of high-income families being more responsive to improving schools than poor families.


'Isn't that what "those kids" need?' Urban schools and the master narrative of the 'tough, urban principal'

Sabrina Zirkel et al.
Race Ethnicity and Education, March 2011, Pages 137-158

We report on a field trip we took to a 'highly successful' urban middle school and a number of disturbing events that occurred there. Afterwards, we filed formal complaints about the violence, and racial and sexual harassment we observed. These complaints led to both a formal investigation and a series of newspaper articles that resulted in a public discussion of urban schools and how best to work with young urban students of color. We present our analysis of this public discussion in terms of what we identify as the master narrative of the 'tough, urban principal' and how children of color in urban schools are 'othered' in ways that allow members of the public to consider abusive behavior an appropriate way to improve students' learning. Four themes emerge in the public discussion of these events: (a) Minimization of startling behaviors - calling them 'unconventional', for example, to regularly scream racial epithets at students; (b) 'Isn't that what those kids need?' in which outrageous and possibly criminal levels of assault on students, teachers, parents, and community members are perceived as 'what is needed' to reach 'those kids'; (c) Desperation on the part of parents and community members to find and identify 'good' urban schools; and (d) Dismissal of those who would complain about such actions as 'politically correct', 'soft', and 'foolishly naïve' about what 'urban' children need to succeed. These themes are discussed in terms of the implicit and explicit dehumanization of students of color, the racial separation between the community and the local schools (i.e., the community is more white and middle class than the student population of the schools), conversations about what constitutes a 'good' school, and the role of standardized test scores in protecting against criticism.


The Non-Cognitive Returns to Class Size

Thomas Dee & Martin West
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, March 2011, Pages 23-46

The authors use nationally representative survey data and a research design that relies on contemporaneous within-student and within-teacher comparisons across two academic subjects to estimate how class size affects certain non-cognitive skills in middle school. Their results indicate that smaller eighth-grade classes are associated with improvements in several measures of school engagement, with effect sizes ranging from .05 to .09 and smaller effects persisting 2 years later. Patterns of selection on observed traits and falsification exercises suggest that these results accurately identify (or possibly understate) the causal effects of smaller classes. Given the estimated earnings impact of these non-cognitive skills, the implied internal rate of return from an eighth-grade class-size reduction is 4.6% overall, but 7.9% in urban schools.


The Relationship between Low-Income and Minority Children's Physical Activity and Academic-Related Outcomes: A Review of the Literature

Merav Efrat
Health Education & Behavior, forthcoming

This article explores an innovative strategy for battling the obesity epidemic. The strategy involves demonstrating to policy makers and education leaders the value of promoting physical activity in school as a way of enhancing academic-related outcomes to narrow the current achievement gap. A literature review was conducted to ascertain the feasibility of this strategy. Seven studies that examined the relationship between physical activity or fitness and academic-related outcomes were reviewed. Although more research is needed in this area, the majority of the articles reviewed found that regardless of socioeconomic status or ethnicity, a positive relationship exists between physical activity and academic-related outcomes. These findings suggest that integrating more physical activity into the school day may be an effective strategy to reduce both health disparities and the achievement gap.


Not Making the Transition to College: School, Work, and Opportunities in the Lives of American Youth

Robert Bozick & Stefanie DeLuca
Social Science Research, forthcoming

Unlike traditional research on educational stratification that focuses on the pursuit of higher education, our study examines why young adults do not make the transition to college, using a nationally representative sample of college non-enrollees (N = 2,640). In applying latent class analysis techniques, we identified multiple types of students who do not pursue college. One group of non-enrollees (27.6 percent) reports forgoing college because the economic barriers are too high - either because of college affordability or family financial responsibility. These youth had both low math test scores and low family income, and thus closely align with regression-based analyses on college enrollment that emphasize academic and economic constraints as the central barriers to educational progress. However, we also identified a second, often overlooked group of youth who had the academic preparation and family income support to enroll in higher education, but decided to forgo college because they preferred to work and to make money (18.3 percent). The heterogeneous motives of these youth suggest that postsecondary decisions are not always guided by academic and economic barriers, but sometimes driven by previous work experience and perceptions of local opportunities for school and work.


Changes in Parental Assets and Children's Educational Outcomes

Vernon Loke & Paul Sacco
Journal of Social Policy, April 2011, Pages 351-368

Several countries, including Canada, Singapore and the United Kingdom, have enacted asset-based policies for children in recent years. The premise underlying these policies is that increases in assets lead to improvement in various child outcomes over time. But little existing research examines this premise from a dynamic perspective. Using data from the NLSY79 mother and child datasets, two parallel process latent growth curve models are estimated to examine the effects of parental asset accumulation on changes in children's achievements over six years during middle childhood. Results indicate that the initial level of assets is positively associated with math scores, but not reading scores, while faster asset accumulation is associated with changes in reading scores, but not in math scores. Overall, the results suggest that the relationship between assets and various child outcomes may not be straight-forward. Different dimensions of the asset experience may lead to different outcomes, and the same dimension may also have different effects. Implications for future research and for asset-based policies are discussed.


Reading and Language Outcomes of a Multiyear Randomized Evaluation of Transitional Bilingual Education

Robert Slavin et al.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, March 2011, Pages 47-58

This article reports the outcomes of a multiyear study comparing the English and Spanish language and reading performance of Spanish-dominant children randomly assigned, beginning in kindergarten, to transitional bilingual education (TBE) or structured English immersion (SEI) for periods of up to 5 years. On the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test and its Spanish equivalent (Test de Vocabulario en Imagenes Peabody) and on the English and Spanish versions of three Woodcock Reading Scales, first graders in TBE performed significantly better in Spanish and worse in English than did their SEI counterparts. Differences diminished in second and third grades, and by fourth grade, when all students in TBE had transitioned to English-only instruction, there were no significant differences on English reading measures. These findings suggest that Spanish-dominant students learn to read in English equally well in TBE and SEI and that policy should therefore focus on the quality of instruction rather than on the language of instruction for English-language learners.


How Do College Students Form Expectations?

Basit Zafar
Journal of Labor Economics, April 2011, Pages 301-348

This study focuses on how college students form expectations about various major-specific outcomes. For this purpose, I collect a panel data set of Northwestern University undergraduates that contains their subjective expectations about major-specific outcomes. Although students tend to be overconfident about their future academic performance, they revise their expectations in expected ways. The updating process is found to be consistent with a Bayesian learning model. I show that learning plays a role in the decision to switch majors and that major switchers respond to information from their own major. I also present evidence that learning is general and not entirely major specific.


Estimating the Effects of Length of Exposure to Instruction in a Training Program: The Case of Job Corps

Carlos Flores et al.
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

We semiparametrically estimate average causal effects of different lengths of exposure to academic and vocational instruction in Job Corps (JC) under the assumption that selection into different lengths is based on a rich set of observed covariates and time-invariant factors. We find that the estimated effects on future earnings are increasing in the length of exposure and that the marginal effects of additional instruction are decreasing with length of exposure. We also document differences in the estimated effects across demographic groups, which are particularly large between males and females. Finally, our results suggest an important "lock-in" effect in JC training.


Social disparities in children's vocabulary in early childhood. Does pre-school education help to close the gap?

Birgit Becker
British Journal of Sociology, March 2011, Pages 69-88

Children start school with differing levels of skills. Thus, children of different social origin have different probabilities of educational success right from the start of their school career. This paper analyses how the gap in language abilities of children with different social backgrounds develops from age three to five. A focus lies on the question whether pre-school education can help to close this gap. The data of the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) show that children's score on a standardized vocabulary test strongly depends on their parents' education. These social differences remain stable or even increase slightly over the two-year period. Using fixed effect models, it is demonstrated that children of higher educated parents can improve their vocabulary more strongly than children whose parents have a lower educational level. Participation in an early education institution positively affects the vocabulary development of children with lower educated parents while there is no significant pre-school effect for children of higher educated parents. The results indicate that pre-school attendance does not lead to a catching-up process of children with lower educated parents. But without pre-school attendance, the gap between children of higher and lower educated parents widens even further.


Age 26 Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Child-Parent Center Early Education Program

Arthur Reynolds et al.
Child Development, January/February 2011, Pages 379-404

Using data collected up to age 26 in the Chicago Longitudinal Study, this cost-benefit analysis of the Child-Parent Centers (CPC) is the first for a sustained publicly funded early intervention. The program provides services for low-income families beginning at age 3 in 20 school sites. Kindergarten and school-age services are provided up to age 9 (third grade). Findings from a complete cohort of over 1,400 program and comparison group participants indicated that the CPCs had economic benefits in 2007 dollars that exceeded costs. The preschool program provided a total return to society of $10.83 per dollar invested (18% annual return). The primary sources of benefits were increased earnings and tax revenues and averted criminal justice system costs. The school-age program had a societal return of $3.97 per dollar invested (10% annual return). The extended intervention program (4-6 years) had a societal return of $8.24 (18% annual return). Estimates were robust across a wide range of analyses including Monte Carlo simulations. Males, 1-year preschool participants, and children from higher risk families derived greater benefits. Findings provide strong evidence that sustained programs can contribute to well-being for individuals and society.


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