Lost in School

Kevin Lewis

May 16, 2022

The Consequences of Remote and Hybrid Instruction During the Pandemic
Dan Goldhaber et al.
NBER Working Paper, May 2022

Using testing data from 2.1 million students in 10,000 schools in 49 states (plus D.C.), we investigate the role of remote and hybrid instruction in widening gaps in achievement by race and school poverty. We find that remote instruction was a primary driver of widening achievement gaps. Math gaps did not widen in areas that remained in-person (although there was some widening in reading gaps in those areas). We estimate that high-poverty districts that went remote in 2020-21 will need to spend nearly all of their federal aid on academic recovery to help students recover from pandemic-related achievement losses. 

Measuring Knowledge
James Heckman & Jin Zhou
NBER Working Paper, April 2022

Empirical studies in the economics of education, the measurement of skill gaps across demographic groups, and the impacts of interventions on skill formation rely on psychometrically validated test scores that record the proportion of items correctly answered. Test scores are sometimes taken as measures of an invariant scale of human capital that can be compared over time and people. We show that for a prototypical test, invariance is violated. We use an unusually rich data set from an early childhood intervention program that measures knowledge of narrowly defined skills on essentially equivalent subsets of tasks. We examine if conventional, broadly-defined measures of skill are the same across people who are comparable on detailed knowledge measures. We reject the hypothesis of aggregate scale invariance and call into question the uncritical use of test scores in research on education and on skill formation. We compare different measures of skill and ability and reject the hypothesis of valid aggregate measures of skill. 

“Make Sure You Look Someone in the Eye”: Socialization and Classed Comportment in Two Elementary Schools
Peter Francis Harvey
American Journal of Sociology, March 2022, Pages 1417–1459

Limited attention has been given to how cultural skills and dispositions are transmitted from adults to children. The author examines how young children’s bodies are classed. He conducted three years of observation in two elementary schools — one upper middle class, one working class, both racially diverse. Both schools use the same program, which encourages traditionally middle-class bodily practices (e.g., handshakes at daily Morning Meetings). The author finds that effective transmission of these skills requires the repetition of both explicit and implicit lessons. Moreover, he finds that class differences creep into this socialization. Students at the upper-middle-class school increasingly refine the recommended skills (e.g., handshakes, eye contact). Meanwhile, students at the working-class school instead become increasingly expert at “respectful,” orderly types of comportment (e.g., sitting still for extended periods, not interrupting). These findings suggest that bodily socialization is a multifaceted process. It is not reserved for adults or elites but taught to children across the class spectrum. The physical quality of cultural performance is discussed. 

Perceived and Ideal Inequality in University Endowments in the United States
Martin Day & Michael Norton
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Whether and which university to attend are among the most financially consequential choices most people make. Universities with relatively larger endowments can offer better education experiences, which can drive inequality in students’ subsequent outcomes. We first explore three interrelated questions: the current educational inequality across U.S. universities, people’s perceptions of this inequality, and their desired inequality. Educational inequality is large: the top 20% of universities have 80% of the total university endowment wealth while the bottom 20% have around 1%. Studies 1 to 3 demonstrated that people underestimate university endowment inequality and desire more equality. These perceptions and ideals were mostly unaffected by contextual factors (e.g., salience of endowment consequences, distribution range) and were not well explained by participants’ demographics. Finally, Study 4 revealed that learning about current endowment inequality decreased tolerance of the distribution of university wealth. We discuss the implications of awareness of educational inequality for behaviors and educational policies. 

Party on dude, but not if you’re a top academic achieving student: How being named a top party school changes the academic profile of a university
Austin Eggers & Peter Groothuis
Applied Economics, forthcoming

This study examines how being named the top party school in the nation by the Princeton Review effects the quality of students at a university. The results indicate that being named the top party school lowers the number of top-tier students who choose to attend the university as measured by academic test scores. The study further finds that being named a top party school has no effect on student applications; however, this designation does lower the number of students who are admitted and who chose to enroll after the institution is named the top party school. These findings suggest that the publicity of being named the top party school enhances a school’s undesired reputation, thereby influencing student enrollment decisions, particularly among top-tier students. 

Testing, Teacher Turnover and the Distribution of Teachers Across Grades and Schools
Dillon Fuchsman, Tim Sass & Gema Zamarro
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming

Teacher turnover has adverse consequences for student achievement and imposes large financial costs for schools. Some have argued that high-stakes testing may lower teachers' satisfaction with their jobs and could be a major contributor to teacher attrition. In this paper, we exploit changes in the tested grades and subjects in Georgia to study the effects of eliminating high-stakes testing on teacher turnover and the distribution of teachers across grades and schools. To measure the effect of testing pressures on teacher mobility choices we use a “difference-in-differences” approach, comparing changes in mobility over time in grades/subjects that discontinue testing vis-à-vis grades/subjects that are always tested. Our results show that eliminating testing did not have an impact on the likelihood of leaving teaching, moving between districts, changing schools within a district, or changing grades. Our findings hold for all teachers as well as for the subsample of early-career teachers. 

Spread Too Thin: The Effect of Specialization on Teaching Effectiveness
NaYoung Hwang & Brian Kisida
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Although the majority of elementary school teachers cover all major subjects in self-contained classrooms, a growing number of teachers specialize in teaching fewer subjects to higher numbers of students. We use administrative data from Indiana to estimate the effect of teacher specialization on teacher and school effectiveness in elementary schools. We find that teacher specialization leads to lower teaching effectiveness in math and reading, and the negative effects are larger when teaching students who are more likely to experience obstacles in school. Moreover, we find no evidence that increasing the proportion of teacher specialists at the school level generates improvements in indicators of school quality. Our findings underscore the importance of fostering opportunities to develop stronger student–teacher relationships. 

Foregrounding the “Home” in Student Homelessness: Residential Context and Educational Outcomes in an Urban District
Meredith Richards & Alexandra Pavlakis
Educational Researcher, forthcoming

Students experiencing homelessness spend their nights in various settings, including shelters, with friends/families (doubled-up), motels/hotels, and unsheltered contexts. Yet there is limited quantitative research on how educational outcomes vary by residential context. We analyze data from over 400,000 students in Houston Independent School District from 2012–2013 to 2016–2017 via fixed-effects models and coarsened exact matching techniques. We find that students who became homeless attended less school and were more likely to drop out than nonhomeless students but had comparable achievement growth and disciplinary infractions. However, outcomes varied significantly by residential context: Doubled-up students fared relatively well on most outcomes, whereas students in shelter had particularly poor attainment. Results highlight the importance of research and practice that attends to differences by residential context. 

Interleaving Retrieval Practice Promotes Science Learning
Faria Sana & Veronica Yan
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Can interleaved retrieval practice enhance learning in classrooms? Across a 4-week period, ninth- through 12th-grade students (N = 155) took a weekly quiz in their science courses that tested half of the concepts taught that week. Questions on each quiz were either blocked by concept or interleaved with different concepts. A month after the final quiz, students were tested on the concepts covered in the 4-week period. Replicating the retrieval-practice effect, results showed that participants performed better on concepts that had been on blocked quizzes (M = 54%, SD = 28%) than on concepts that had not been quizzed (M = 47%, SD = 20%; d = 0.30). Interleaved quizzes led to even greater benefits: Participants performed better on concepts that had been on interleaved quizzes (M = 63%, SD = 26%) than on concepts that had been on blocked quizzes (d = 0.35). These results demonstrate a cost-effective strategy to promote classroom learning. 

Greek myth or fact? The role of Greek houses in alcohol and drug violations on American campuses
Manu Raghav & Timothy Diette
Applied Economics, forthcoming

Greek-letter student social groups, better known as fraternities and sororities, are a ubiquitous feature on many American higher education campuses. These organizations, especially fraternities, have a reputation for encouraging unruly and improper behaviour among both members and non-members. This paper investigates the effect of the degree of prevalence of these Greek organizations at a campus, as measured by the percentage of students who are members of fraternities and sororities, on the instances of liquor and drug law violations on campuses, as measured by the number of arrests for liquor and drug laws violations. Using a unique dataset, which combines data from three sources, we address any potential selection bias by including several controls associated with party culture and through the inclusion of institution-level fixed effects. We find that a larger percentage of students in fraternities (but not sororities) is associated with an increase in the number of arrests for drug law violations. A larger percentage of students in sororities (but not the percentage of students in fraternities) is associated with a larger number of arrests for liquor law violations. This result is highly significant and is robust across various specifications.


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