Kevin Lewis

November 27, 2017

Disentangling the Roles of Institutional and Individual Poverty in the Identification of Gifted Students
Rashea Hamilton et al.
Gifted Child Quarterly, forthcoming

Although the relationships between family income and student identification for gifted programming are well documented, less is known about how school and district wealth are related to student identification. To examine the effects of institutional and individual poverty on student identification, we conducted a series of three-level regression models. Students of poverty are generally less likely to be identified for gifted services, even after controlling for prior math and reading achievement. Furthermore, school poverty predicts the percentage of gifted students identified in a school. Within districts, even after controlling for reading and math scores, the poorer schools in a district have lower identification rates. Whereas students of poverty are generally less likely to be identified for gifted services, poor students in poor schools are even less likely to be identified as gifted.

Equalizers or Enablers of Inequality? A Counterfactual Analysis of Racial and Residential Test Score Gaps in Year-Round and Nine-Month Schools
Odis Johnson & Michael Wagner
ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, November 2017, Pages 240-261

Persistent racial/ethnic and residential disparities in test scores suggest schools fail to serve as society's great equalizers. Yet few studies have explored whether policies that adjust children's time in school are effective in reducing test-score inequality. We use ECLS-K data to compare children who attend year-round schools to those in nine-month schools, exploring (1) whether there were mean differences in the reading and math performance among first graders attending year-round and nine-month schools, (2) if racial and residential differences in children's test scores existed between the schooling types, and (3) if neighborhood effects related to academic performance strengthened or weakened as the children's exposure to schooling increased. Contrary to previous claims that schooling increases test-score inequality, we found no significant test-score differences among race-based groups of children according to neighborhood conditions in year-round schools. In contrast, we found prominent neighborhood effects and social class differences among children attending nine-month schools. We conclude with a discussion of the policy implications.

Montessori Preschool Elevates and Equalizes Child Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study
Angeline Lillard et al.
Frontiers in Psychology, October 2017

Quality preschool programs that develop the whole child through age-appropriate socioemotional and cognitive skill-building hold promise for significantly improving child outcomes. However, preschool programs tend to either be teacher-led and didactic, or else to lack academic content. One preschool model that involves both child-directed, freely chosen activity and academic content is Montessori. Here we report a longitudinal study that took advantage of randomized lottery-based admission to two public Montessori magnet schools in a high-poverty American city. The final sample included 141 children, 70 in Montessori and 71 in other schools, most of whom were tested 4 times over 3 years, from the first semester to the end of preschool (ages 3-6), on a variety of cognitive and socio-emotional measures. Montessori preschool elevated children's outcomes in several ways. Although not different at the first test point, over time the Montessori children fared better on measures of academic achievement, social understanding, and mastery orientation, and they also reported relatively more liking of scholastic tasks. They also scored higher on executive function when they were 4. In addition to elevating overall performance on these measures, Montessori preschool also equalized outcomes among subgroups that typically have unequal outcomes. First, the difference in academic achievement between lower income Montessori and higher income conventionally schooled children was smaller at each time point, and was not (statistically speaking) significantly different at the end of the study. Second, defying the typical finding that executive function predicts academic achievement, in Montessori classrooms children with lower executive function scored as well on academic achievement as those with higher executive function. This suggests that Montessori preschool has potential to elevate and equalize important outcomes, and a larger study of public Montessori preschools is warranted.

School accountability and teacher mobility
Li Feng, David Figlio & Tim Sass
Journal of Urban Economics, January 2018, Pages 1-17

We exploit a 2002 change in Florida's school accountability system, and use regression discontinuity and difference-in-difference approaches, to study the effects of accountability pressure on teacher mobility. While school grading "shocks" do not affect mobility at most parts of the measured school quality distribution, there exists strong evidence that teachers are more likely to leave schools that have received a failing grade. Receipt of an "F" grade translates into differently higher turnover for the best teachers, measured by contributions to student test scores, at a school. These results are robust to a wide range of parametric and nonparametric model specifications.

Can Financial Aid Help to Address the Growing Need for STEM Education? The Effects of Need-Based Grants on the Completion of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Courses and Degrees
Benjamin Castleman, Bridget Terry Long & Zachary Mabel
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Although workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields earn above-average wages, the number of college graduates prepared for STEM jobs lags behind employer demand. A key question is how to recruit and retain college students in STEM majors. We offer new evidence on the role of financial aid in supporting STEM attainment. Exploiting a regression discontinuity that allows for causal inference, we find that eligibility for need-based financial aid increased STEM credit completion by 20 to 35 percent among academically-ready students in a large, public higher education system. These results appear to be driven by shifting students into STEM-heavy course loads, suggesting aid availability impacts the academic choices students make after deciding to enroll. We also find suggestive evidence that aid offers increase degree attainment in STEM fields, although we cannot rule out null impacts on STEM degree production.

Choice Architecture Versus Price: Comparing the Effects of Changes in the U.S. Student Loan Market
Xiaoling Ang & Alexei Alexandrov
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, December 2017, Pages 762-812

We show that changes in choice architecture have a large effect on student loan decisions while we do not find significant effects of sizeable interest rate changes. We evaluate the effect of two polices implemented in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education: (1) the requirement that all applicants for private student loans fill out a Self-Certification Form, which includes various disclosures about federal student aid, and (2) the prohibition of presenting a private student loan as a default option on a financial aid offer without disclosure of the relationship between the school and the creditor. Using difference-in-difference and matching techniques on a proprietary dataset of private student loan originations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and survey and administrative data from the Department of Education, we show that these changes decreased private student loan originations. In contrast, we find no consumer response when analyzing a 60 basis point decrease in the price of federal Parental PLUS Loans at some schools, using the same datasets and similar estimation techniques.

It is in the Contract: How the Policies Set in Teachers' Unions' Collective Bargaining Agreements Vary Across States and Districts
Katharine Strunk et al.
Educational Policy, forthcoming

We examine more than 1,000 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in place across California, Michigan, and Washington. We investigate the prevalence of a set of 43 key provisions between and within these states, providing the first comprehensive comparison of CBA terms using data drawn from economically and demographically different districts, as well as districts that vary considerably by student enrollment. We find that CBAs vary substantially within and across states, and that this variation is more associated with district size than the proportion of low-income students within districts. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for research and policy.

Dynamic Treatment Effects of Teacher's Aides in an Experiment with Multiple Randomizations
Jeffrey Penney
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Using data from a large-scale two-stage experiment wherein students and teachers were randomized at both kindergarten entry and first grade to be sorted into classes either with or without full-time teacher's aides, I estimate an econometric model that is uniquely suited to take advantage of this design to determine their effect on academic achievement. The identification strategy produces fully nonparametric dynamic average treatment effects for every treatment path. I find that the use of full-time teacher's aides increases student achievement, but the benefits appear to accrue mostly to those of higher socioeconomic status and to White students. A cost-benefit analysis shows that full-time teacher's aides may be a competitive alternative to class size reductions in terms of net social benefits.

Equity, Access, and Mathematics Coursetaking Within Purposefully Created Small High Schools
Miya Warner & Douglas Ready
Educational Policy, forthcoming

An extensive body of research describes the stark social and academic disparities that characterize large, comprehensive public high schools. Advocates have argued that smaller high schools, with their necessarily more constrained curricula, have the potential to improve student academic outcomes and their equitable distribution. Using propensity score matching within a multilevel modeling framework, we explore this assertion in New York City, which has been at the center of small school reform. We find a small, positive impact of attending a new, small high school on progress through the math curriculum for low-achieving students, but no effect for average-achieving students, and a negative impact for higher achieving students. Despite any positive findings, the typical small school student still failed to complete Algebra II/Trigonometry - the lowest level course deemed "college preparatory" by the district.

Does Test Preparation Mean Low-Quality Instruction?
David Blazar & Cynthia Pollard
Educational Researcher, November 2017, Pages 420-433

Critics of test-based accountability warn that test preparation has a negative influence on teachers' instruction due to a focus on procedural skills. Others advocate that the adoption of more rigorous assessments may be a way to incentivize more ambitious test preparation instruction. Drawing on classroom observations and teacher surveys, we do find that test preparation activities predict lower quality and less ambitious mathematics instruction in upper-elementary classrooms. However, the magnitudes of these relationships appear smaller than the prevailing narrative has warned. Further, our findings call into question the hypothesis that test rigor can serve as a lever to elevate test preparation to ambitious teaching. Therefore, improving the quality of mathematics instruction in the midst of high-stakes testing likely will require that policymakers and school leaders undertake comprehensive efforts that look beyond the tests themselves.

Information Use and Attention Deferment in College Student Loan Decisions: Evidence From a Debt Letter Experiment
Rajeev Darolia & Casandra Harper
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming

A prominent concern is that college students are harming their long-term economic prospects by making student loan decisions without full information about the implications of their choices. We designed an experiment to examine students' responses to a debt letter, an increasingly popular strategy to provide easily accessible information about student loans. The debt letters are modeled after requirements in recent state laws that attempt to encourage students to make informed borrowing decisions. Our results suggest that information alone is not sufficient to systematically change students' borrowing choices. The debt letter led to no change in the amount that students borrow or the likelihood that they will borrow. We supplement results from the experiment with semistructured interviews to examine why the intervention did not change behavior.

Linking the Timing of Career and Technical Education Coursetaking With High School Dropout and College-Going Behavior
Michael Gottfried & Jay Stratte Plasman
American Educational Research Journal, forthcoming

While prior studies have examined the efficacy of career and technical education (CTE) courses on high school students' outcomes, there is little knowledge on timing of these courses and a potential link to student outcomes. We asked if the timing of these courses predicted differences in the likelihood of dropout and on-time high school graduation as well as college-going behaviors. We found that CTE coursetaking in high school was linked to lower chances of dropout and increased chances of on-time graduation, especially when these courses were taken later in high school. Little evidence arose that CTE coursetaking boosts college-going behaviors. The implications speak to the role of timing of CTE coursetaking, specifically on end of high school outcomes.

The Impact of Incentives to Recruit and Retain Teachers in "Hard-to-Staff" Subjects
Li Feng & Tim Sass
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

We investigate the effects of a statewide program designed to increase the supply of teachers in designated "hard-to-staff" areas, such as special education, math, and science. Employing a difference-in-difference estimator we find that the loan forgiveness component of the program was effective, reducing mean attrition rates for middle and high school math and science teachers by 10.4 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively. We also find that the impact of loan forgiveness varied with the generosity of payments; when fully funded, the program reduced attrition of special education teachers by 12.3 percent, but did not have a statistically significant impact when funding was substantially reduced. A triple-difference estimate indicates that a one-time bonus program also had large effects, reducing the likelihood of teachers' exit by as much as 32 percent in the short run. A back-of-the-envelope cost-benefit analysis suggests that both the loan forgiveness and the bonus program were cost effective.

Preschool Intervention Can Promote Sustained Growth in the Executive-Function Skills of Children Exhibiting Early Deficits
Tyler Sasser et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

This study examined the effects of the Head Start Research-Based, Developmentally Informed (REDI) preschool intervention on growth in children's executive-function (EF) skills from preschool through third grade. Across 25 Head Start centers, each of 44 classrooms was randomly assigned either to an intervention group, which received enhanced social-emotional and language-literacy components, or to a "usual-practice" control group. Four-year-old children (N = 356; 25% African American, 17% Latino, 58% European American; 54% girls) were followed for 5 years, and EF skills were assessed annually. Latent-class growth analysis identified high, moderate, and low developmental EF trajectories. For children with low EF trajectories, the intervention improved EF scores in third grade significantly more (d = 0.58) than in the control group. Children who received the intervention also demonstrated better academic outcomes in third grade than children who did not. Poverty often delays EF development; enriching the Head Start program with an evidence-based curriculum and teaching strategies can reduce early deficits and thereby facilitate school success.

The Challenge of Teacher Retention in Urban Schools: Evidence of Variation From a Cross-Site Analysis
John Papay et al.
Educational Researcher, November 2017, Pages 434-448

Substantial teacher turnover poses a challenge to staffing public schools with effective teachers. The scope of the teacher retention challenge across school districts, however, remains poorly defined. Applying consistent data practices and analytical techniques to administrative data sets from 16 urban districts, we document substantial cross-district variation in teacher retention rates. Observable characteristics do not easily explain this cross-district variation. We also find considerable cross-district variation in key results from the retention literature, including the relationship between retention and both experience and estimated effectiveness. Finally, we explore the influence of temporary leaves of absence and cross-district, within-state movement on retention estimates. Accounting for cross-district movement matters little, while accounting for temporary leaves matters a great deal in many districts and tends to exacerbate cross-district differences in retention rates.

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