Minor Institutions

Kevin Lewis

November 29, 2021

Pandemic Schooling Mode and Student Test Scores: Evidence from US States
Clare Halloran et al.
NBER Working Paper, November 2021

We estimate the impact of district-level schooling mode (in-person versus hybrid or distance learning) on test scores. We combine Spring 2021 state standardized test score data with comprehensive data on schooling in the 2020-21 school year across 12 states. We find that pass rates declined compared to prior years and that these declines were larger in districts with less in-person instruction. Passing rates in math declined by 14.2 percentage points on average; we estimate this decline was 10.1 percentage points smaller for districts fully in-person. Changes in English language arts scores were smaller, but were significantly larger in districts with larger populations of students who are Black, Hispanic or eligible for free and reduced price lunch. 

The Signaling Power of Unexcused Absence from School
Jaymes Pyne et al.
Educational Policy, forthcoming

State and national school accountability policies situate preventing chronic absenteeism on par with meeting state standardized test benchmarks. We question relying on school attendance as both a component of accountability policies and a means of enhancing equity in schools. Our research suggests out-of-school factors unrelated to missed instruction account for most of the associations between absences and test score achievement - with unexcused absences driving those associations. Excessive absences - and particularly unexcused absences - don't harm students mainly through missed instruction. Instead, they reflect out-of-school harms students endure that have produced inequalities for years - and will continue to do so even if students show up or parents call in. 

How Finance Reform May Alter Teacher and School Quality: California's $23 Billion Initiative
JoonHo Lee, Bruce Fuller & Sophia Rabe-Hesketh
American Educational Research Journal, December 2021, Pages 1225-1269

Gains in school spending helped to lift achievement over the past half century. But California's ambitious effort - progressively distributing $23 billion in yearly funding to poorer districts - has yet to reduce disparities in learning. We theorize how administrators in districts and schools, given organizational habits and labor constraints, may fail to move quality resources to disadvantaged students. We identify the exogenous portion of California's post-2013 reform, finding that schools receiving progressively targeted funding tended to hire inexperienced teachers and disproportionately assign novices to courses serving English learners. New funding expanded the array of courses in high schools, as access to college-preparatory classes by English learners declined. These unfair mechanisms operated most strongly in high-needs schools serving larger concentrations of poor students. 

Comprehensive Support and Student Success: Can Out of School Time Make a Difference?
Sarah Komisarow
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming

StudentU is a comprehensive program that provides education, nutrition, and social support services to disadvantaged middle and high school students outside of the regular school day. In this paper I investigate the effects of this multi-year program on the early high school outcomes of participating students by exploiting data from oversubscribed admissions lotteries. I find that the subgroup of lottery winners who entered the comprehensive program with low baseline achievement earned more course credits (0.82 credits), achieved higher grade point averages (0.37 grade points), and were less likely to be suspended (17.1 percentage points) during ninth grade than their lottery loser counterparts. Investigation of intervening variables indicates that on-time grade progress and decreases in course failure and disciplinary infractions are potential mediating channels. Using an index of early high school outcomes, I predict that lottery winners are around 4 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than lottery losers (5 percent effect). These results suggest that comprehensive services delivered outside of the regular school day have the potential to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students. 

The Long-Run Impacts of Special Education
Briana Ballis & Katelyn Heath
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, November 2021, Pages 72-111

Over 13 percent of US students participate in special education (SE) programs annually, at a cost of $40 billion. However, due to selection issues the effect of SE placements remains unclear. This paper uses administrative data from Texas to examine the long-run effect of reducing SE access. Our research design exploits variation in SE placement driven by a unique state policy that required school districts to reduce SE caseloads to 8.5 percent. This policy led to sharp reductions in SE enrollment. These reductions generated significant reductions in educational attainment, suggesting that marginal participants experience long-run benefits from SE services. 

When tenure ends: The short-run effects of the elimination of Louisiana's teacher employment protections on teacher exit and retirement
Nathan Barrett, Katharine Strunk & Jane Lincove
Education Economics, December 2021, Pages 559-579

Most teachers have tenure protections that constrain dismissal. Some argue that tenure improves recruitment and retention by mitigating the risk of monopsony employment and substituting job security for lower salaries. Others argue that tenure reduces performance incentives making it difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers. We examine supply-side responses of teachers after the elimination of tenure before administrators could use performance to dismiss teachers. Voluntary teacher attrition increased after tenure elimination with effects concentrated in groups that are theoretically most likely to value job protections. Specifically, tenure removal increased exit of teachers with bottom decile value-added measures and retirement eligible teachers. 

Evaluating Education Governance: Does State Takeover of School Districts Affect Student Achievement?
Beth Schueler & Joshua Bleiberg
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Local school boards have primary authority for running educational systems in the U.S., but little is known empirically about the merits of this arrangement. State takeovers of struggling districts represent a rare alternative form of educational governance and have become an increasingly common response to low performance. However, limited research explores whether this effectively improves student outcomes. We track all takeovers nationwide from the late 1980s, when the first takeovers occurred, through 2016 and describe takeover districts. While these districts are low performing, we find academic performance plays less of a role in predicting takeover for districts serving larger concentrations of African American students. We then use a new data source allowing for cross-state comparisons of student outcomes to estimate the effect of takeovers that occurred between 2011 and 2016. On average, we find no evidence that takeover generates academic benefits. Takeover appears to be disruptive in the early years of takeover, particularly to English Language Arts achievement, although the longer-term effects are less clear. We also observe considerable heterogeneity of effects across districts. Takeovers were least effective in districts with higher baseline achievement and least harmful in majority-Hispanic communities. Leaders should be cautious about using state takeover without considering local context and a better understanding of why some takeovers are more effective than others. 

A Comparison of Academic Outcomes in Courses Taught With Open Educational Resources and Publisher Content
Linda Bol et al.
Educational Researcher, forthcoming

What difference do open educational resources (OER) make compared with publisher content (non-OER) when costs and instructors remain constant? A total of 215 community college students enrolled in online, introductory courses were randomly assigned to OER or non-OER sections and compared on retention at the tuition drop date, completion with a C or better, course completion, and mean final exam scores. Students in the OER sections were retained and persisted at a statistically significant higher rate, lending credibility to the findings of former studies regarding retention and persistence rates in courses taught with OER materials. No statistically significant differences were found on completion rates or final exam scores. OER course materials should be considered in broader initiatives for student success in community colleges. 

Identifying the effects of bullying victimization on schooling
Dimitrios Nikolaou
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

I estimate whether bullying leads to worse academic outcomes for bullied students, exploiting state-year differences in anti-bullying laws, and within-law heterogeneity that provide variation in the probability of bullying victimization. Using data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, I show that bullying increases the probability of skipping classes and dropping out of high school, and it decreases grade point average by up to 5%. Heterogeneity analysis shows that physical bullying imposes a greater burden on males, though females are relatively more sensitive to nonphysical bullying. These negative effects persist into adulthood as high school bullying decreases college performance and college graduation. 

The Effects of Education on Mortality: Evidence Using College Expansions
Jason Fletcher & Hamid Noghanibehambari
NBER Working Paper, October 2021

This paper explores the long-run health benefits of education for longevity. Using mortality data from the Social Security Administration (1988-2005) linked to geographic locations in the 1940-census data, we exploit changes in college availability across cohorts in local areas. We estimate an intent to treat effect of exposure to an additional 4-year college around age 17 of increasing longevity by 0.13 months; treatment on the treated calculations suggest increases in longevity between 1-1.6 years. Some further analyses suggest the results are not driven by pre-tends, endogenous migration, and other time-varying local confounders. This paper adds to the literature on the health and social benefits of education.

When the Walls Come Down: Evidence on Charter Schools' Ability to Keep Their Best Teachers Without Unions and Certification Rules
Nathan Barrett et al.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Theories of market-based school reform suggest that teacher labor markets may be inefficient because schools lack autonomy to incentivize performance in hiring, retention, and compensation. We test this empirically by comparing teacher exits in the deregulated market of New Orleans with neighboring traditional school districts. We find that the relationship between teacher performance and retention is stronger in the deregulated market. We also find positive associations between salary and performance, but only when teachers transfer from one charter school to another. While teacher retention is more closely tied to performance in New Orleans, this did not yield a net gain in teacher quality, because new teachers in New Orleans were of lower average quality than their peers in neighboring districts. 

A Second Chance at Success? Effects of College Grade Forgiveness Policies on Student Outcomes
Xuan Jiang et al.
NBER Working Paper, November 2021

The increased popularity of college Grade Forgiveness policies, which allow students to retake classes and substitute the new grades for the previous grades in their GPA calculations, is controversial yet understudied. Our paper is the first to ask whether such policies benefit students and how. To answer these questions, we use student-level admissions and transcript data from a four-year public institution in the U.S. that underwent two major changes in its GPA policy. We find that Grade Forgiveness significantly incentivizes students, especially students with the strongest academic preparation, to take STEM courses and challenging courses and to enroll in more credits. The increased variations in within-term grades suggest that students may change their effort allocations between courses taken in the same semester and spend more effort on courses that promise a higher grade in return. We also find that repeaters whose first attempted grades are forgiven are more likely to persist in the failed subject and obtain better grades subsequently. Finally, we see an increase in graduation in STEM majors for students who were intensively exposed to this policy.


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