Honor roll

Kevin Lewis

December 03, 2012

The Full Extent of Student-College Academic Undermatch

Jonathan Smith, Matea Pender & Jessica Howell
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

This paper quantifies the extent of student-college "academic undermatch," which occurs when a student's academic credentials permit them access to a college or university that is more selective than the postsecondary alternative they actually choose. Using a nationally representative dataset, we find that 41 percent of students undermatch in their postsecondary choice. We also find that academic undermatch affects students with a range of academic credentials, but is more common among those students from low socioeconomic status families, who live in rural areas, and whose parents have no college degree. Finally, we show that between the 1992 and 2004 high school senior cohorts, academic undermatch has decreased by nearly 20 percent. The decrease is partially due to students being more likely to apply to a matched college.


The Secret of My Success: How Status, Eliteness, and School Performance Shape Legal Careers

Richard Sander & Jane Bambauer
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, December 2012, Pages 893-930

If we study the 40,000 law graduates who join the legal profession each year, how well can we predict their future careers? How much of their future is predicted by their social class? The law school they attend? Their law school grades? This article undertakes the first in-depth examination of these questions. Drawing on several large and recently released data sets, we examine the role of class, school prestige, and law school grades on the career earnings of lawyers and the success of big firm associates in becoming partners. We find that social class strongly conditions who goes to law school, but no longer predicts much about postgraduate outcomes. Law school prestige is important, but it is generally trumped by law school performance (as measured by law school grades). Law school grades reflect both personal characteristics not well captured by prelaw credentials, and one's relative position in a law school class as measured by prelaw credentials. Our findings suggest that there is little empirical basis for the overwhelming importance students assign to "eliteness" in choosing a law school.


Long-Term Effects of Class Size

Peter Fredriksson, Björn Öckert & Hessel Oosterbeek
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

This paper evaluates the long-term effects of class size in primary school. We use rich data from Sweden and exploit variation in class size created by a maximum class size rule. Smaller classes in the last three years of primary school (age 10 to 13) are beneficial for cognitive and non-cognitive ability at age 13, and improve achievement at age 16. Most importantly, we find that smaller classes have positive effects on completed education, wages, and earnings at age 27 to 42. The estimated wage effect is large enough to pass a cost-benefit test.


Is More Always Better? Early Career Returns to Education in the United States and Norway

Liza Reisel
Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, forthcoming

This paper compares early career returns to education in the United States and Norway. Longitudinal data is used to follow national cohorts of 10th graders who have made the transition from school to work within 10 years. OLS and quantile regression analyses show that whereas the relationship between educational attainment and income in the United States follows a linear pattern with higher returns to longer and more intellectually prestigious educations, this is not the case in Norway. In Norway, it pays off to choose vocational education in high school and college, especially for men. The results show that women and minorities benefit more from education than non-minority men in both countries. The findings from the quantile regressions indicate that this has partly to do with the fact that women and minorities are more disadvantaged at the lower end of the income distribution and at the lowest levels of educational attainment.


The Unintended Consequences of an Algebra-for-All Policy on High-Skill Students: Effects on Instructional Organization and Students' Academic Outcomes

Takako Nomi
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2012, Pages 489-505

In 1997, Chicago implemented a policy that required algebra for all ninth-grade students, eliminating all remedial coursework. This policy increased opportunities to take algebra for low-skill students who had previously enrolled in remedial math. However, little is known about how schools respond to the policy in terms of organizing math classrooms to accommodate curricular changes. The policy unintentionally affected high-skill students who were not targeted by the policy - those who would enroll in algebra in its absence. Using an interrupted time-series design combined with within-cohort comparisons, this study shows that schools created more mixed-ability classrooms when eliminating remedial math classes, and peer skill levels declined for high-skill students. Consequently, their test scores also declined.


Age, Academic Performance, and Stimulant Prescribing for ADHD: A Nationwide Cohort Study

Helga Zoëga, Unnur Valdimarsdóttir & Sonia Hernández-Díaz
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Background: We evaluated whether younger age in class is associated with poorer academic performance and an increased risk of being prescribed stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Methods: This was a nationwide population-based cohort study, linking data from national registries of prescribed drugs and standardized scholastic examinations. The study population comprised all children born in 1994-1996 who took standardized tests in Iceland at ages 9 and 12 (n = 11 785). We estimated risks of receiving low test scores (0-10th percentile) and being prescribed stimulants for ADHD. Comparisons were made according to children's relative age in class.

Results: Mean test scores in mathematics and language arts were lowest among the youngest children in the fourth grade, although the gap attenuated in the seventh grade. Compared with the oldest third, those in the youngest third of class had an increased relative risk of receiving a low test score at age 9 for mathematics (1.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.6-2.2) and language arts (1.8; 95% CI 1.6-2.1), whereas at age 12, the relative risk was 1.6 in both subjects. Children in the youngest third of class were 50% more likely (1.5; 95% CI 1.3-1.8) than those in the oldest third to be prescribed stimulants between ages 7 and 14.

Conclusions: Relative age among classmates affects children's academic performance into puberty, as well as their risk of being prescribed stimulants for ADHD. This should be taken into account when evaluating children's performance and behavior in school to prevent unnecessary stimulant treatment.


Social stratification, classroom climate, and the behavioral adaptation of kindergarten children

Thomas Boyce et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 October 2012, Pages 17168-17173

Socioeconomic status (SES) is the single most potent determinant of health within human populations, from infancy through old age. Although the social stratification of health is nearly universal, there is persistent uncertainty regarding the dimensions of SES that effect such inequalities and thus little clarity about the principles of intervention by which inequalities might be abated. Guided by animal models of hierarchical organization and the health correlates of subordination, this prospective study examined the partitioning of children's adaptive behavioral development by their positions within kindergarten classroom hierarchies. A sample of 338 5-y-old children was recruited from 29 Berkeley, California public school classrooms. A naturalistic observational measure of social position, parent-reported family SES, and child-reported classroom climate were used in estimating multilevel, random-effects models of children's adaptive behavior at the end of the kindergarten year. Children occupying subordinate positions had significantly more maladaptive behavioral outcomes than their dominant peers. Further, interaction terms revealed that low family SES and female sex magnified, and teachers' child-centered pedagogical practices diminished, the adverse influences of social subordination. Taken together, results suggest that, even within early childhood groups, social stratification is associated with a partitioning of adaptive behavioral outcomes and that the character of larger societal and school structures in which such groups are nested can moderate rank-behavior associations.


Large-Scale Evaluations of Curricular Effectiveness: The Case of Elementary Mathematics in Indiana

Rachana Bhatt & Cory Koedel
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2012, Pages 391-412

We use data from one of the few states where information on curriculum adoptions is available - Indiana - to empirically evaluate differences in performance across three elementary-mathematics curricula. The three curricula that we evaluate were popular nationally during the time of our study, and two of the three remain popular today. We find large differences in effectiveness between the curricula, most notably between the two that held the largest market shares in Indiana. Both are best characterized as traditional in pedagogy. We also show that the publisher of the least-effective curriculum did not lose market share in Indiana in the following adoption cycle; one explanation is that educational decision makers lack information about differences in curricular effectiveness.


Access Without Equity: Longitudinal Analyses of Institutional Stratification by Race and Ethnicity, 1972-2004

Julie Renee Posselt et al.
American Educational Research Journal, December 2012, Pages 1074-1111

The competitive dynamics that sustain stratification among postsecondary institutions have reinforced racial inequality in selective college enrollment between 1972 and 2004. Using a data set constructed from four nationally representative surveys (National Longitudinal Survey 1972, High School & Beyond 1980, National Educational Longitudinal Survey 1988, and Educational Longitudinal Survey 2002), the authors model how escalating admissions standards - including academic preparation and the growing importance of SAT scores and extracurricular leadership - effectively maintain racial inequality in selective college enrollment over time. Black and Latino students have made strides in their pre-collegiate academic preparation. Nevertheless, although access to postsecondary education has expanded since 1972 for all ethnic groups, Black and Latino students' odds of selective college enrollment have declined relative to White and Asian American students.


Are selective private and public colleges affordable?

John Karikari & Hashem Dezhbakhsh
Education Economics, Winter 2013, Pages 60-78

We examine college affordability under the existing pricing and financial aid system that awards both non need-based and need-based aid. Using data of freshmen attending a large number of selective private and public colleges in the USA, we find that the prices students actually pay for college have increased over time. Need-based grant aid has not kept pace with the substantial increases in non need-based aid. Most importantly, although low-income students received more subsidies than higher-income students, the existing financial aid system does not provide enough affordability to needy students. Nonetheless, the deficiency cannot be attributed to the increases in non need-based aid.


Comparing Effects of Family and School Factors on Cross-national Academic Achievement using the 2009 and 2006 PISA Surveys

Sonia Sousa, Eun Jung Park & David Armor
Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, Fall 2012, Pages 449-468

This paper investigates whether international differences in math and science achievement, and specifically the lower US scores, can be explained by family socioeconomic status (SES) and differences in school factors. Using 2009 and 2006 PISA data for the ten largest developed OECD countries, the results show that, while family SES has a strong effect on students' achievement, it does not explain the US achievement gap with other large developed OECD countries. In contrast, a substantial number of school variables not only have significant effects on math and science achievement, but they contribute more to the US gap than SES differences.


Higher Education, Merit-Based Scholarships and Post-Baccalaureate Migration

Maria Fitzpatrick & Damon Jones
NBER Working Paper, November 2012

Many merit-based scholarships for college are administered at the state level, targeted to in-state residents and require attendance at an in-state institution. Though these subsidies have the potential to affect lifetime education and migration decisions, much of the literature to date has focused on just one or two outcomes (e.g. college attendance and completion) and one or two states (e.g. Georgia). Given that one of the stated goals of these programs is to increase the quality of a state's workforce, understanding the long-term effects of merit-based scholarships on mobility is crucial for evaluating their effectiveness. In this paper, we utilize the broader expansion and long history of these programs to build a comprehensive picture of how merit aid scholarship availability affects residential migration and educational attainment. To do this, we incorporate data on the introduction of broad-based merit aid programs for fifteen states and Census data on all 24 to 32 year olds in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010. We use variation in merit aid eligibility across cohorts and within states to identify treatment effects. Eligibility for merit aid programs slightly increases the propensity of state natives to live in-state, while also extending enrollment in-state into the late twenties. These patterns notwithstanding, the magnitude of merit aid effects is of an order of magnitude smaller than the population treated, suggesting that nearly all of the spending on these programs is transferred to individuals who do not alter educational or migration behavior.


Class in the classroom: The relationship between school resources and math performance among low socioeconomic status students in 19 rich countries

Katherine Baird
Education Economics, Fall 2012, Pages 484-509

This paper investigates achievement gaps between low and high socioeconomic students in 19 high-income countries. On average, math scores of students with indicators of high socioeconomic status (SES) are over one standard deviation above those with low SES indicators. The paper estimates the extent to which these achievement gaps can be attributed to differences in classroom- and school-level resources available to students from different SES backgrounds. In some countries, achievement gaps can be largely explained by differences in the characteristics of schools attended. However, in many other countries, the gap appears more closely related to differences in the characteristics of the students. The results point to the importance of institutional difference among countries in explaining international differences in the quality of education received by different groups within a nation.


The Impact of Alternative Grade Configurations on Student Outcomes through Middle and High School

Guido Schwerdt & Martin Weste
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

We use statewide administrative data from Florida to estimate the impact of attending public schools with different grade configurations on student achievement through grade 10. Based on an instrumental variable estimation strategy, we find that students moving from elementary to middle school suffer a sharp drop in student achievement in the transition year. These achievement drops persist through grade 10. We also find that middle school entry increases student absences and is associated with higher grade 10 dropout rates. Transitions to high school in grade nine cause a smaller one-time drop in achievement but do not alter students' performance trajectories.


Moderate stress enhances immediate and delayed retrieval of educationally relevant material in healthy young men

Almut Hupbach & Rachel Fieman
Behavioral Neuroscience, December 2012, Pages 819-825

Retrieval practice is a powerful memory enhancer. However, in educational settings, test taking is often experienced as a stressful event. While it is known that stress can impair retrieval processes, little is known about the delayed consequences of testing memory for educationally relevant material under stressful conditions, which is the focus of the present study. Participants (38 women, 37 men) memorized a scientific text passage on Day 1. On Day 2, they were either exposed to a stressor (cold pressor test; CPS) or a warm water control, and immediately afterward, they were asked to recall the text passage (i.e., retrieval under stress vs. control). Salivary cortisol was measured as an index of the stress response before, and 20 min after the CPS versus control treatment. The delayed effects of testing under stress were assessed with a final recall test on Day 3. In comparison to the control condition, CPS caused significant increases in salivary cortisol, and, surprisingly resulted in enhanced memory in men. Importantly, this enhancement was not only observed in the test that immediately followed the stressor, but also in the delayed test. In women, CPS caused only marginal increases in cortisol concentrations, and retrieval remained unaffected. Our study suggests that moderate stress can improve memory performance for educationally relevant material in a long-lasting manner in healthy young men.


Laptop Multitasking Hinders Classroom Learning for Both Users and Nearby Peers

Faria Sana, Tina Weston & Nicholas Cepeda
Computers & Education, March 2013, Pages 24-31

Laptops are commonplace in university classrooms. In light of cognitive psychology theory on costs associated with multitasking, we examined the effects of in-class laptop use on student learning in a simulated classroom. We found that participants who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask, and participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. The results demonstrate that multitasking on a laptop poses a significant distraction to both users and fellow students and can be detrimental to comprehension of lecture content.


School shootings and private school enrollment

Rahi Abouk & Scott Adams
Economics Letters, forthcoming

We find that school shootings are followed by a 10-12% increase in private high school enrollment. The effects are most pronounced following shootings in nonurban ares, which is consistent with their more intense media coverage.


Preliminary data suggesting the efficacy of attention training for school-aged children with ADHD

Leanne Tamm et al.
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, forthcoming

A pilot randomized clinical trial was conducted to examine the initial efficacy of Pay Attention!, an intervention training sustained, selective, alternating, and divided attention, in children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). After a diagnostic and baseline evaluation, school-aged children with ADHD were randomized to receive 16 bi-weekly sessions of Pay Attention! (n = 54) or to a waitlist control group (n = 51). Participants completed an outcome evaluation approximately 12 weeks after their baseline evaluation. Results showed significant treatment effects for parent and clinician ratings of ADHD symptoms, child self-report of ability to focus, and parent ratings of executive functioning. Child performance on neuropsychological tests showed significant treatment-related improvement on strategic planning efficiency, but no treatment effects were observed on other neuropsychological outcomes. Treatment effects were also not observed for teacher ratings of ADHD. These data add to a growing body of literature supporting effects of cognitive training on attention and behavior, however, additional research is warranted.


E-Textbooks At What Cost? Performance and Use of Electronic v. Print Texts

David Daniel & William Douglas Woody
Computers & Education, March 2013, Pages 18-23

While e-book sales continue to increase, electronic textbooks are not very popular with college students. This may be due to the fact that e-textbooks are read for different reasons and with different strategies than are e-books. Although previous research has documented this lack of preference for e-textbooks, student performance and use of electronic texts has yet to be thoroughly investigated, especially in naturalistic settings. This study examines students' use and performance on a variety of print and electronic formats in both laboratory and at-home conditions. Although students scored similarly across formats and conditions, reading time was significantly higher in the electronic conditions with this difference increasing for the home conditions. Similarly, self-reports of multi-tasking were significantly higher for electronic conditions in the home condition, possibly accounting for the disparities in reading time. We conclude by urging caution in the rush to assume that electronic textbooks are equivalent substitutes for traditional textbooks and argue for further investigation into the unique ways that students may interact with electronic texts to promote more effective design.


Team Pay for Performance: Experimental Evidence From the Round Rock Pilot Project on Team Incentives

Matthew Springer et al.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2012, Pages 367-390

Education policymakers have shown increased interest in incentive programs for teachers based on the outcomes of their students. This article examines a program in which bonuses were awarded to teams of middle school teachers based on their collective contribution to student test score gains. The study employs a randomized controlled trial to examine effects of the bonus program over the course of an academic year, with the experiment repeated a second year, and finds no significant effects on the achievement of students or the attitudes and practices of teachers. The lack of effects of team-level pay for performance in this study is consistent with other recent experiments studying the short-term effects of bonus awards for individual performance or whole-school performance.


Cultural Relay in Early Childhood Education: Methods of Teaching School Behavior to Low-Income Children

Stephanie Smith
Urban Review, December 2012, Pages 571-588

There is a distinct class difference in the way that children are taught school behavior. Teachers in affluent schools use more implicit teaching techniques while teachers of low-income children are more explicit in their teaching of behavior. This stems largely from the alignment of the home culture of middle class children to school behavior and the difference between the home culture of low-income children to school codes. However, middle class children learn behavior at home implicitly. This study examines the possibility of low-income children learning school behavior implicitly while at school. The researcher observed two Chicago Head Start centers - one using implicit instruction and one teaching behavior explicitly - over a period of 5 months. Observational data showed that the children that learned school behavior through implicit teaching techniques better internalized school behavior and, by extension, middle class codes.


Estimating the Impact of the Massachusetts English Immersion Law on Limited English Proficient Students' Reading Achievement

Qian Guo & Daniel Koretz
Educational Policy, January 2013, Pages 121-149

The large number of limited English proficient (LEP) children in U.S. schools and the uncertainty about the impact of bilingual education versus English immersion on their achievement warrant rigorous investigation of the effects of "English immersion laws." We estimated the impact of Question 2, the Massachusetts English immersion law, and explored whether programs provided to LEP students before and after Question 2 imparted different language and reading skills. The results suggested that Question 2 had no substantial effect on third-grade LEP students' reading achievement; there was suggestive evidence that pre- and post-Question 2 programs might attach emphasis to different subskills.


Does the amount of school choice matter for student engagement?

Michael Vaughn & Christopher Witko
Social Science Journal, forthcoming

School choice may increase student engagement by enabling students to attend schools that more closely match their needs and preferences. But this effect on engagement may depend on the characteristics of the choices available. Therefore, we consider how the amount of educational choice of different types in a local educational marketplace affects student engagement using a large, national population of 8th grade students. We find that more choice of regular public schools in the elementary and middle school years is associated with a lower likelihood that students will be severely disengaged in eighth grade, and more choices of public schools of choice has a similar effect but only in urban areas. In contrast, more private sector choice does not have such a general beneficial effect.


The Magnitude, Destinations, and Determinants of Mathematics and Science Teacher Turnover

Richard Ingersoll & Henry May
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, December 2012, Pages 435-464

This study examines the magnitude, destinations, and determinants of mathematics and science teacher turnover. The data are from the nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey and the Teacher Follow-Up Survey. Over the past two decades, rates of mathematics and science teacher turnover have increased but, contrary to conventional wisdom, have not been consistently different than those of other teachers. Also, contrary to conventional wisdom, mathematics and science teachers were also no more likely than other teachers to take noneducation jobs, such as in technological fields or to be working for private business or industry. The data also show there are large school-to-school differences in mathematics and science turnover; high-poverty, high-minority, and urban public schools have among the highest rates. In the case of cross-school migration, the data show there is an annual asymmetric reshuffling of a significant portion of the mathematics and science teaching force from poor to not-poor schools, from high-minority to low-minority schools, and from urban to suburban schools. A number of key organizational characteristics and conditions of schools accounted for these school differences. The strongest factor for mathematics teachers was the degree of individual classroom autonomy held by teachers. Net of other factors such as salaries, schools with less classroom autonomy lose math teachers at a far higher rate than other teachers. In contrast, for science teachers salary was the strongest factor, while classroom autonomy was not strongly related to their turnover.


The Effects of Community Social Capital on School Performance: A Spatial Approach

Kaustav Misra, Paul Grimes & Kevin Rogers
Journal of Socio-Economics, forthcoming

The influence of social capital on economic activities has been a central theme in the literature for quite a long time, but the relationship between social connectedness and school choice has not been addressed. If the primary objective of social capital is to create cohesiveness through the connectivity of community members, then it is clear that parents' school choice decisions are influenced by the groups or organizations to which they belong. Ni (2007) argues that parents' decisions not only influence students' academic performance, but also affect school expenditures. Thus, it is worthwhile to investigate the effect of social capital on school performance. The measurement of social capital has been debated for a long time. In this paper we create a geographically bounded community around schools in Mississippi employing GIS instead of following the commonly used political boundaries such as school district or county to measure social capital. Then we estimate the social capital stock for each school to analyze the relationship between the school's performance and existing social capital. Data were collected from the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development (NRCRD) and the Mississippi Department of Education for the academic year 2005-2006. We find that schools located in communities with a higher stock of social capital significantly outperform those with relatively low levels of social capital. The results also suggest that students' race and socio-economic status significantly reduce primary school performance, holding all else equal. This research helps to understand the importance of social capital from spatial perspectives and will guide policy makers in future resource allocations.

to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


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

Subscribe to National Affairs.