The COVID-19 School Year: Learning and Recovery Across 2020-2021
Megan Kuhfeld et al.
AERA Open, June 2022
The schooling disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to reverberate across the K-12 educational system more than a year after schools closed for in-person instruction. In this study, we examined the aftermath of these disruptions by modeling student achievement trends prior to and during the pandemic, with particular focus on growth in 2020-2021. The data included test scores from 4.9 million U.S. students in Grades 3 through 8. Although the average student demonstrated positive gains in math and reading during the 2020-2021 school year, students were still behind typical (prepandemic) averages by spring 2021 (0.16 to 0.26 standard deviations behind in math and 0.06 to 0.11 standard deviations behind in reading). Furthermore, growth in math was more variable than in prior years, and much of the gains occurred among initially high-performing students pulling further ahead. Findings support the theory that the pandemic left students behind academically across the board while also worsening existing educational inequities.
Not by g alone: The benefits of a college education among individuals with low levels of general cognitive ability
Matt McGue et al.
Intelligence, May-June 2022
In a longitudinal sample of 2593 individuals from Minnesota, we investigated whether individuals with IQs ? 90 who completed college experienced the same social and economic benefits higher-IQ college graduates did. Although most individuals with IQs ? 90 did not have a college degree, the rate at which they completed college had increased approximately 6-fold in men and 10-fold in women relative to rates in the previous generation. The magnitude of the college effect on occupational status, income, financial independence, and law abidingness was independent of IQ level, a finding replicated using the nationally representative NLSY97 sample. Additional analyses suggested the association of college with occupational status was consistent with a causal effect and that the educational success of individuals with low-average IQs may depend in part on non-ability factors, family socioeconomic status and genetic endowment. We discuss our finding in the context of the recent expansion in college attainment as well as the dearth of research on individuals with low-average IQs.
Adult Culture Wars and Student Academic Achievement
Ohio State University Working Paper, April 2022
How do adult "culture wars" in education affect student learning in the classroom? I explore this question by combining information on nearly 500 school district political controversies with data on state test scores. Leveraging variation in the location and timing of these events as the basis for a difference-in-differences design, I show that student achievement declines in the wake of adult political battles. The effects are concentrated in math achievement -- the equivalent of approximately 10 days of lost learning -- and persist for at least four years. The declines are particularly pronounced for controversies surrounding racial issues and the teaching of evolution. These results suggest that well-intentioned education advocacy efforts focused on salient social justice issues may backfire, producing in unintended negative impacts on student achievement, and raise new questions about the adequacy of local democratic processes for the governance of public schools.
More light about each other: Theater education as a context for developing social awareness and relationship skills
Steven Holochwost, Thalia Goldstein, Dennis Wolf
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, forthcoming
Social awareness and relationship skills are two essential components of children's socioemotional development that undergo rapid consolidation in middle childhood. Previous research has found that growing up in poverty can undermine the development of social awareness and relationship skills and has also suggested that theater education might serve as an important context in which these skills can develop. In the current study, we examined whether participation in a program of theater education was associated with higher levels of two key aspects of social awareness-empathy and perspective-taking-and openness to establishing relationships with their peers among a sample of children placed at risk by poverty. After participating in the program, children exhibited significantly higher scores on measures of empathy (B = .32, SE = .10), t(7.65) = 3.33, p = .011, and openness to establishing peer relationships (B = .77, SE = .23), t(5.05) = 3.29, p = .021, than their comparison group peers. Among a randomly selected subset of students from both the treatment and comparison groups, children in the treatment group exhibited larger gains in their perspective-taking than children in the comparison group. These results are interpreted considering previous research, and their implications for educational policy, especially as it relates to arts education for children in poverty, are discussed.
School Finance Reforms and Juvenile Crime
American Law and Economics Review, Spring 2022, Pages 1-86
Several states initiated school finance reforms during the post-1990s, commonly named the "adequacy" era, with the primary purpose of providing adequate funding for low-income school districts. This article uses the space-time variation in court-ordered reforms in this period as shocks to school spending and investigates its effects on juvenile arrest rates and risky behaviors. Using a 2SLS-DDD approach and a wide range of data sets, I find that exposure to reform reduces the juvenile arrest rates, increases the likelihood of high school graduation, increases the time spent on educational activities, and reduces risky behaviors at schools. A 10%% rise in real per-pupil spending is associated with 7.4 fewer arrests per 1,000 in the population aged 15-19. This rise is equivalent to a reduction of roughly 90,806 arrests annually. It also implies a minimum of 20%% return in school spending due to the avoided costs of deterred crimes.
Leveraging Experimental and Observational Evidence to Assess the Generalizability of the Effects of Early Colleges in North Carolina
Sarah Fuller, Douglas Lee Lauen & Fatih Unlu
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming
Early college high schools (ECHS) in North Carolina are small public schools of choice on college campuses that seek to promote attaining postsecondary credits in high school, college readiness, and postsecondary enrollment for underrepresented groups. Evidence from randomized control trial (RCT) has shown positive effects of the ECHS model on important high school and postsecondary outcomes but appear to be underpowered to detect moderation effects. Furthermore, RCTs rarely address the key question of primary policy interest: is the program effective on average across the population? This leaves us uncertain about whether the early college intervention is (1) a good strategy for helping to close enrollment and attainment gaps between under- and over-represented groups, and (2) whether the expansion of the ECHS model will lead to the positive results that the RCT studies suggest. This study uses administrative data on all ECHS in North Carolina including those ECHS that were part of a lottery study. This allows us to generate RCT estimates for the ECHS in the lottery sample and quasi-experimental (QE) estimates for both the lottery and non-lottery ECHS. We leverage this unique circumstance to generate estimates of the effect of ECHS on post-secondary outcomes that simultaneously maximize both internal and external validity. Specifically, because generalization depends on both moderation and sample selection, we (1) investigate sample selection, (2) conduct a moderation analysis to determine whether the effects of the intervention vary by key factors that also predict sample selection, and (3) produce a pooled estimate by extending a method called cross-design synthesis to incorporates both RCT evidence and quasi-experimental evidence. We find strong evidence that the positive results of the RCT generalize to the full sample of ECHS which provides stronger evidence of effectiveness.
Is a name change a game change? The impact of college-to-university conversions
Economics of Education Review, June 2022
In the competitive U.S. higher education market, institutions differentiate themselves to attract both students and tuition dollars. One understudied example of this differentiation is the increasing trend of "colleges" becoming "universities" by changing their names. Between 2001 and 2016, 122 four-year colleges - nearly 25% of those called colleges in 2001 - made such conversions. Leveraging variation in the timing of these conversions in an event study framework, I show that converting to a university signals an increased focus on graduate education, which leads to an increase in undergraduate enrollment, bachelor's degree production, and total revenues. I further find that these effects are largest when institutions are the first in their market to convert to a university and can lead to negative spillover effects on non-converting colleges.
What's in a Job? Evaluating the Effect of Private Sector Employment Experience on Student Academic Outcomes
Alicia Sasser Modestino, Urbashee Paul & Joseph McLaughlin
AEA Papers and Proceedings, May 2022, Pages 126-130
Although subsidized summer jobs programs have been shown to improve youth outcomes, little is known about the effects of private sector employment experiences. We study a unique program that brokers employer-paid summer internships for youth across a variety of industries and occupations. Using administrative data, we employ fixed effects and matching models to estimate the impact of these internships on academic outcomes. We find that private sector job experience significantly increases attendance, reduces course failures, and raises proficiency on statewide exams. Participants are more likely to take the SAT and enroll in college with a shift from two-year to four-year institutions.
A for effort: Incomplete information and college students' academic performance
Nicholas Wright & Puneet Arora
Economics of Education Review, June 2022
11Students form beliefs about their expected performance based on incomplete information about the past distribution of grades. This may lead students to sub-optimally choose their level of effort and ultimately harm their actual academic performance. Using a field experiment, this paper examines the impact of randomly exposing students to accurate instructor-level information about the past distribution of grades in an introductory economics course. We find that while the intervention had a small positive impact on students' average test scores, it improved the likelihood of passing the course by 10 percentage points. In addition, the results indicate that moderate-achievers, females, and students from higher-income households are most likely to benefit from treatment. The intervention also favored the students who had high expectations about their performance in the course and those with stronger priors about the expected grade distribution.
Should English majors take computer science courses? Labor market benefits of the occupational specificity of major and nonmajor college credits
Audrey Light & Sydney Schreiner Wertz
Economics of Education Review, June 2022
Using administrative data for college graduates, we model earnings and employment probabilities as functions of a credit-weighted index of the occupational specificity of college coursework, decomposed into within-major, within-discipline (but outside the major), and nondisciplinary components. We define the occupational specificity of each college field as the likelihood that a student majoring in that field subsequently works in an occupation requiring specific skills acquired in the field. We find that occupationally-specific, non-disciplinary courses are strongly associated with earnings; e.g., a five percentage-point shift among English majors from their least occupationally-specific courses outside the humanities to computer science is associated with a 0.055 increase in log-earnings.
Predicting Academic Performance with an Assessment of Students' Knowledge of the Benefits of High-Level and Low-Level Construal
Tina Nguyen et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming
Metamotivation research suggests that people understand the benefits of engaging in high-level versus low-level construal (i.e., orienting toward the abstract, essential versus concrete, idiosyncratic features of events) in goal-directed behavior. The current research examines the psychometric properties of one assessment of this knowledge and tests whether it predicts consequential outcomes (academic performance). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses revealed a two-factor structure, whereby knowledge of the benefits of high-level construal (i.e., high-level knowledge) and low-level construal (i.e., low-level knowledge) were distinct constructs. Participants on average evidenced beliefs about the normative benefits of high-level and low-level knowledge that accord with published research. Critically, individual differences in high-level and low-level knowledge independently predicted grades, controlling for traditional correlates of grades. These findings suggest metamotivational knowledge may be a key antecedent to goal success and lead to novel diagnostic assessments and interventions.