Off Course

Kevin Lewis

February 12, 2024

Partisanship and Professionalization: School Board Decision-Making in the Midst of a Pandemic
Karin Kitchens & Megan Goldberg
Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming

During the COVID-19 pandemic, school board members played a prominent role in deciding reopening plans. Using an original large-scale survey of board members, our goal is to understand how the polarized, political context of pandemic responses shaped the decision-making processes of members as they experienced dramatic increases in workload. We find school board members are much more likely to identify at the extremes of partisan identity, as strong Democrats or strong Republicans. How they identified mattered in who they trusted to tell them information, how much control they felt the board should have in the process of reopening plans, and who should interpret data about COVID. If the other party was in power at the state level, members from opposing parties had less trust in state sources. Most school board elections are nonpartisan, but that does not mean that the members themselves do not strongly identify with a party.

Beyond Prescriptive Reforms: An Examination of North Carolina's Flexible School Restart Program
Lam Pham, Gage Matthews & Timothy Drake
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Although multiple studies have examined the impact of school turnaround, less is known about reforms under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). To advance this literature, we examine North Carolina's Restart (NCR) model. NCR aligns with ESSA by giving school leaders increased flexibility. Also, NCR differs from previous turnaround models by repackaging a traditionally sanction-based approach to instead motivate school leaders with increased autonomy. Using comparative interrupted time series models, we find positive NCR effects in math, but not in English Language Arts or on nontest-based student outcomes. Also, nearly a quarter of the positive NCR effect can be explained by decreased teacher and principal turnover. These results provide evidence to support current shifts toward reform models featuring local autonomy.

There Is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch: School Meals, Stigma, and Student Discipline
Thurston Domina et al.
American Educational Research Journal, forthcoming

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows high-poverty schools to offer free meals to all students regardless of household income. Conceptualizing universal meal provision as a strategy to alleviate stigma associated with school meals, we hypothesize that CEP implementation reduces the incidence of suspensions, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds and minoritized students. We link educational records for students enrolled in Oregon public schools between 2010 and 2017 with administrative data describing their families' household income and social safety net program participation. Difference-in-differences analyses indicate that CEP has protective effects on the probability of suspension for students in participating schools, particularly for students from low-income families, students who received free or reduced-price meals prior to CEP implementation, and Hispanic students.

Competitive Effects of Charter Schools
David Figlio, Cassandra Hart & Krzysztof Karbownik
NBER Working Paper, February 2024

Using a rich dataset that merges student-level school records with birth records, and leveraging three alternative identification strategies, we explore how increase in access to charter schools in twelve districts in Florida affects students remaining in traditional public schools (TPS). We consistently find that competition stemming from the opening of new charter schools improves reading -- but not math -- performance and it also decreases absenteeism of students who remain in the TPS. Results are modest in magnitude.

Are Effective Teachers for Students With Disabilities Effective Teachers for All?
Jesse Wood et al.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming

The success of students with disabilities (SWDs) depends on access to high-quality general education teachers. Yet, teacher value-added measures (VAMs) generally fail to distinguish between effectiveness in educating students with or without disabilities. Using data from the Los Angeles Unified School District, we create two VAMs: one focusing on teachers' effectiveness for SWDs and one for non-SWDs. We find that many top-performing teachers for non-SWDs have relatively lower VAMs for SWDs and vice versa, and that on average SWDs have teachers with lower scores in both VAMs than non-SWDs. Overall, SWD-specific VAMs may be more suitable for identifying which teachers have a history of effectiveness with SWDs and could play a role in informing student assignment to teachers.

The Role and Influence of Exclusively Online Degree Programs in Higher Education
Justin Ortagus, Rodney Hughes & Hope Allchin
American Educational Research Journal, forthcoming

This study leverages national data and a quasi-experimental design to examine the influence of enrolling in an exclusively online degree program on students' likelihood of completing their degree. We find that enrolling in an exclusively online degree program had a negative influence on students' likelihood of completing their bachelor's degree or any degree when compared to their otherwise-similar peers who enrolled in at least some face-to-face courses. The negative relationship between exclusively online enrollment and students' likelihood of bachelor's degree completion was relatively consistent among White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, low-income, and military students. Findings focused solely on those students enrolled in exclusively online degree programs revealed that the negative influence of exclusively online enrollment was exacerbated when the student attended a for-profit 4-year institution.

Do Double Majors Face Less Risk? An Analysis of Human Capital Diversification
Andrew Hanks et al.
NBER Working Paper, January 2024

We study how human capital diversification, in the form of double majoring, affects the response of earnings to labor market shocks. Double majors experience substantial protection against earnings shocks, of 56%. This finding holds across different model specifications and data sets. Furthermore, the protection double majors experience is more pronounced when the two majors are more distantly related, highlighting the importance of diverse skill sets. Additional analyses demonstrate that double majors are more likely to work in jobs that require a diverse set of skills and knowledge and are less likely to work in occupations that are closely related to their majors.

Is Working in College Worth It? How Hours on the Job Affect Postsecondary Outcomes
Avery Davis
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Many students work during college to offset rising costs, but significant time on the job affects postsecondary outcomes. Analyzing the High School Longitudinal Study (N = 4,418), this article estimates the effects of hours worked on grades, credits earned, persistence, stopping out (i.e., unenrolling for 5 months before reenrolling), and dropping out. The polynomial regression analysis shows that after adjusting for background characteristics, prior academic achievement, institution types, and family obligations, "traditional" undergraduate students begin seeing deleterious effects at 20 hours, which becomes even more severe for those working 28+ hours (and the worst for Pell Grant recipients working long hours). While some work was good for students, on average, financial and family circumstances help explain the curvilinear relationships.


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