Passed on

Kevin Lewis

April 03, 2017

Alone and adrift: The association between mass school shootings, school size, and student support
Abigail Baird, Emma Roellke & Debra Zeifman
Social Science Journal, forthcoming

Method: Our sample consisted of twenty-two mass school shooting cases between January 1995 and June 2014. Information about school shootings was gathered using preexisting school shooting databases and news media reports. Using state and national databases, data regarding school size and student-teacher ratios of incident schools were collected. Information about schools where shooters previously attended, as well as state average school statistics, were also obtained.

Findings: Schools where mass shootings occurred had significantly higher enrollments than their state average counterparts. Additionally, students who committed a mass school shooting were significantly more likely to have previously attended a school with a smaller student body and/or a lower than state average student-teacher ratio.

"Pay It Forward" and Higher Education Subsidies: A Median Voter Model
Jennifer Delaney & Dhammika Dharmapala
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming


Since 2012, at least 24 states have considered legislation on Pay It Forward (PIF) models of higher education finance (which enable students to pay the price of college upon departure from an institution, as opposed to paying upfront tuition). This paper proposes a theoretical model of PIF policies within a framework in which voters belonging to different income groups vote over the level of subsidies to higher education. We analyze the impact of two types of potential PIF policies - a deferred tuition approach and an income share approach - on college access and on voting equilibria over subsidy levels. The results show that college access is enhanced by PIF policies. The equilibrium level of subsidies depends crucially on the pattern of income distribution, in particular on the relationship between mean income and the income of the median income group, and on whether higher education widens or narrows the distribution of income. We show that the equilibrium level of subsidies to higher education will not necessarily decline under PIF, and may increase in some circumstances due to changes in college access for low-income groups.

Does Universal Preschool Hit the Target? Program Access and Preschool Impacts
Elizabeth Cascio
NBER Working Paper, March 2017


Despite substantial interest in preschool as a means of narrowing the achievement gap, little is known about how particular program attributes might influence the achievement gains of disadvantaged preschoolers. This paper uses survey data on a recent cohort to explore the mediating influence of one key program attribute - whether disadvantage itself is a criterion for preschool admission. Taking advantage of age-eligibility rules to construct an instrument for attendance, I find that universal state-funded prekindergarten (pre-K) programs generate substantial positive effects on the reading scores of low-income 4 year olds. State pre-K programs targeted toward disadvantaged children do not. Differences in other pre-K program requirements and population demographics cannot explain the larger positive impacts of universal programs. The alternatives to universal and targeted state pre-K programs also do not significantly differ. Together, these findings suggest that universal preschools offer a relatively high-quality learning experience for low-income children not reflected in typical quality metrics.

Do Anti-Bullying Policies Deter In-School Bullying Victimization?
Dimitrios Nikolaou
International Review of Law and Economics, June 2017, Pages 1-6


Despite the significant increase in the number of anti-bullying laws between 2000 and 2015, there is little evidence on whether such policies can decrease the amount of bullying that occurs on school grounds. In this paper, I evaluate the effectiveness of bullying laws on decreasing the share of students who experience in-school bullying victimization using a difference-in-difference framework. The school-level results show that schools in states with such laws had less reported school bullying incidents (up to 8.4%) compared to schools in states without anti-bullying laws, and these effects are much stronger in states where there is a specific clause in the law defining the term bullying. Falsification tests for other crime-related behaviors, on which the anti-bullying laws should not have an effect, corroborate a causal interpretation of the results.

Computers and Productivity: Evidence from Laptop Use in the College Classroom
Richard Patterson & Robert Patterson
Economics of Education Review, April 2017, Pages 66-79


This paper evaluates the effect of classroom computer use on academic performance. Using a quasi-experimental design and administrative data, we find that computer use in college classrooms has a negative impact on course grades. Our study exploits institutional policies that generate plausibly random variation in laptop use within the classroom. Compared to students who are not affected by computer policies, students who are induced to use computers in class perform significantly worse and students who are influenced not to use computers perform significantly better. We find that the negative effects of computer use are concentrated among males and low-performing students and more prominent in quantitative courses.

Ability Tracking or Comprehensive Schooling? A Theory on Peer Effects in Competitive and Non-Competitive Cultures
Kathrin Thiemann
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, May 2017, Pages 214-231


We develop a model of student decision making that shows that it depends on the culture of competitiveness in a country or region whether it is optimal to choose a school design with ability tracking or comprehensive schooling. Students with different cultural background differ in their concern for relative position in the classroom, which is modeled by reference-dependent preferences. We contrast competitive cultures, where students compare their performance with the best performance in class, and non-competitive cultures where the reference point is the average performance. Taking into account students with heterogeneous abilities, we show that the average performance in competitive cultures is maximized under comprehensive schooling and in non-competitive cultures under ability tracking. Segregation of abilities, however, always leads to a higher dispersion of performances.

Putting Dollars Before Scholars? Evidence from For-Profit Charter Schools in Florida
John Singleton
Economics of Education Review, June 2017, Pages 43-54


This paper compares for- and non-profit management of charter schools in Florida using a unique dataset combining enrollment and student proficiency data with the annual independent financial audits filed by all charter schools. Comparisons reveal that independent for- and non-profit charter schools locate in similar markets and serve similar student bodies, whereas for-profits belonging to a network locate in lower income, denser, and more Hispanic areas. Bearing out the concerns of parents and policymakers, regression estimates indicate that, among independent charters, for-profits spend less per pupil on instruction and achieve lower student proficiency gains. By contrast, among charter schools belonging to a network, for-profits spend approximately 11% less per pupil, but expenses on student instruction are not being cut. The estimates, which control for differences across schools in student composition and other characteristics, imply that an equivalent level of per pupil expenses purchases about 0.03σ higher student proficiency at network for-profit charter schools.

Selection into Online Community College Courses and Their Effects on Persistence
Nick Huntington-Klein, James Cowan & Dan Goldhaber
Research in Higher Education, May 2017, Pages 244-269


Online courses at the college level are growing in popularity, and nearly all community colleges offer online courses (Allen and Seaman in Tracking online education in the United States, Babson Survey Research Group, Babson Park, 2015). What is the effect of the expanded availability of online curricula on persistence in the field and towards a degree? We use a model of self-selection to estimate the effect of taking an online course, using region and time variation in Internet service as a source of identifying variation. Our method, as opposed to standard experimental methods, allows us to consider the effect among students who actually choose to take such courses. For the average person, taking an online course has a negative effect on the probability of taking another course in the same field and on the probability of earning a degree. The negative effect on graduation for students who choose to take an online course is stronger than the negative effect for the average student. Community colleges must balance these results against the attractive features of online courses, and institutions may want to consider actively targeting online courses toward those most likely to do well in them.

What do Editors Maximize? Evidence from Four Leading Economics Journals
David Card & Stefano DellaVigna
NBER Working Paper, March 2017


We study editorial decision-making using anonymized submission data for four leading economics journals: the Journal of the European Economics Association, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Review of Economic Studies, and the Review of Economics and Statistics. We match papers to the publication records of authors at the time of submission and to subsequent Google Scholar citations. To guide our analysis we develop a benchmark model in which editors maximize the expected quality of accepted papers and citations are unbiased measures of quality. We then generalize the model to allow different quality thresholds for different papers, and systematic gaps between citations and quality. Empirically, we find that referee recommendations are strong predictors of citations, and that editors follow the recommendations quite closely. Holding constant the referees' evaluations, however, papers by highly-published authors get more citations, suggesting that referees impose a higher bar for these authors, or that prolific authors are over-cited. Editors only partially offset the referees' opinions, effectively discounting the citations of more prolific authors in their revise and resubmit decisions by up to 80%. To disentangle the two explanations for this discounting, we conduct a survey of specialists, asking them for their preferred relative citation counts for matched pairs of papers. The responses show no indication that prolific authors are over-cited and thus suggest that referees and editors seek to support less prolific authors.

Student Coaching: How Far Can Technology Go?
Philip Oreopoulos & Uros Petronijevic
Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming


One-on-one coaching programs tend to have large effects on student outcomes but are costly to scale. In contrast, interventions that rely on technology to maintain contact with students can be scaled at low cost but may be less effective than one-on-one assistance. We randomly assign over four thousand students from a large Canadian university into control, online-exercise, text-messaging, and one-on-one coaching groups, finding large effects on academic outcomes from the coaching program but no effects from either technology-based intervention. A comparison of key design features suggests that future technology-based interventions should aim to provide proactive, personalized, and regular support.

The efficacy of a relationship building intervention in 5th grade
Cindy Faith Miller et al.
Journal of School Psychology, April 2017, Pages 75-88


The present study reports initial efficacy data for a new school-based intervention - the Relationship Building Intervention (RBI) - that includes a series of teacher-facilitated, structured activities designed to promote positive peer relationships and inclusive classroom communities. The RBI was evaluated in fifth-grade classrooms by estimating multilevel model (MLM) analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) comparing 368 fifth-grade students in intervention classrooms with 259 fifth-graders in control classrooms on social behaviors, perceptions of classroom connectedness, and academic performance. Controlling for pretest scores, cohort, and demographic variables, findings revealed that students who participated in the RBI liked school more, felt a greater sense of classroom identification and inclusion, were perceived by teachers to be less aggressive, and performed better academically than students who were in control classrooms. Further, implementation data showed that students and teachers responded positively to the activities. These results suggest that the RBI is a promising approach for improving the social and learning environment in fifth-grade classrooms.

Coupling Admissions and Curricular Data to Predict Medical Student Outcomes
Diana Sesate et al.
Research in Higher Education, May 2017, Pages 295-312


The relative impact of admissions factors and curricular measures on the first medical licensing exam (United States Medical Licensing Exam [USMLE] Step 1) scores is examined. The inclusion of first-year and second-year curricular measures nearly doubled the variance explained in Step 1 scores from the amount explained by the combination of preadmission demographic characteristics and admissions factors. In addition, the relationship between the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and Step 1 scores becomes counterintuitive in models that include curricular measures, where students with the lowest combined admissions metrics (MCAT, grade-point average) score higher, on average, than those with some of the highest admissions metrics. Overreliance on traditional metrics in admissions decisions can exclude students from medical school who have the ability to succeed.

Pay for play: The financial value of NCAA football players
Richard Borghesi
Applied Economics, forthcoming


We explore the financial value of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football recruits and establish a wage schedule based on the star ratings assigned to high school athletes by an independent talent evaluation agency. Evidence suggests that the contribution of higher-ranking recruits to team wins significantly increases revenues. While the NCAA currently prohibits universities from paying student-athletes, we estimate that if amateurism rules were rescinded and college football players were compensated according to their revenue-generating abilities then five-, four-, three-, and low-star players would be entitled to annual salaries of $799,000, $361,000, $29,000, and $21,000, respectively, in addition to athletic scholarships covering tuition, books, and room and board.

Full Cost-of-Attendance Scholarships and College Choice: Evidence From NCAA Football
John Charles Bradbury & Joshua Pitts
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming


In 2015, the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I schools were permitted to cover the "full cost of attendance" as a part of athletic scholarships for the first time, which allowed schools to provide modest living stipends to its athletes. Differences in cost-of-attendance allotments across schools have the potential to affect the allocation of talent, with higher stipends attracting better student-athletes. Using recently published cost-of-attendance data, we estimate the impact of cost-of-attendance allowances on college football recruiting. Estimates reveal that cost-of-attendance scholarship allowances were positively associated with football recruiting quality immediately following their implementation, indicating that the modest differences in stipends swayed student-athletes' college choice.

School Lunch Quality and Academic Performance
Michael Anderson, Justin Gallagher & Elizabeth Ramirez Ritchie
NBER Working Paper, March 2017


Improving the nutritional content of public school meals is a topic of intense policy interest. A main motivation is the health of school children, and, in particular, the rising childhood obesity rate. Medical and nutrition literature has long argued that a healthy diet can have a second important impact: improved cognitive function. In this paper, we test whether offering healthier lunches affects student achievement as measured by test scores. Our sample includes all California (CA) public schools over a five-year period. We estimate difference-in-difference style regressions using variation that takes advantage of frequent lunch vendor contract turnover. Students at schools that contract with a healthy school lunch vendor score higher on CA state achievement tests, with larger test score increases for students who are eligible for reduced price or free school lunches. We do not find any evidence that healthier school lunches lead to a decrease in obesity rates.

Impact of Need-Based Financial Aid on Student Persistence at Public Institutions: An Application of the Regression-Discontinuity Design
William Doyle, Jungmin Lee & Tuan Nguyen
Vanderbilt University Working Paper, March 2017


We take advantage of a unique program design to estimate the effect of financial aid on first-to-second year persistence. In Tennessee, need-based financial aid is given to eligible students on a first-come, first-served basis, based on when the student files the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Using a regression-discontinuity design, we compare the persistence among eligible students who received need-based aid in the first and second years of college with eligible students who failed to to apply before the undisclosed cutoff date in the second year. Students at the University of Tennessee who retained their financial aid were 9.5 percentage points more likely to persist than students who lost their financial aid.

A PISA Paradox? An Alternative Theory of Learning as a Possible Solution for Variations in PISA Scores
Hikaru Komatsu & Jeremy Rappleye
Comparative Education Review, forthcoming


Variations in mean PISA scores have not been adequately explained to date, suggesting the limits of our current understanding of the relationship between educational practices and students' performance. In contrast to previous research that applies existing theories to explain observed variations, this study attempts to extend our existing theoretical horizon using PISA-derived data. We first introduce findings of PISA-Science data that run counter to the fundamental assumptions of both student-centered and teacher-centered learning theories; namely, countries having lower levels of students' initiative to design and carry out their own projects had higher scores. We then propose an alternative theory of learning (Type II learning) to explain this counterexample by rethinking the learning process at its philosophical and ontological depths. We conclude by noting a surprising paradox: the Type II learning made visible through PISA data appears to undermine the core premise of the OECD's whole approach to PISA itself.

The Performance Cycle: The Association between Student Achievement and State Policies Tying Together Teacher Performance, Student Achievement, and Accountability
Nicola Alexander, Sung Tae Jang & Shipi Kankane
American Journal of Education, forthcoming


This article explores the associations between student performance and the presence of state policies that include student achievement in teacher evaluations. We examined performance among states from 2007 through 2013. Including student performance in state teacher evaluation policies is modestly associated with higher reading achievement but had no significant association with math achievement. Typically, black and Hispanic students did not experience the policy differently from their white peers. Disparities between white and black learners and between white and Hispanic students remained, signaling that these accountability policies did not eliminate racial disparities in the system.

Classroom Stress Promotes Motivated Forgetting of Mathematics Knowledge
Gerardo Ramirez, Ian McDonough & Ling Jin
Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming


The ability to retain educationally relevant content in a readily accessible state in memory is critical for students at all stages in schooling. We hypothesized that a high degree of stress in mathematics courses can threaten students' mathematics self-concept and lead to a motivation to forget course content. We tested the aforementioned hypothesis by recruiting students from a college course on multivariate calculus. Students were asked to report their ongoing stress in the course. The forgetting rate was assessed by comparing students' final exam performance against their performance for a subset of the same final exam items 2 weeks later. We found that among students with a strong mathematics self-concept, a higher amount of ongoing weekly stress during the course was associated with increased forgetting of course content and a higher report of avoidant thinking about the course. Neither of these associations was found among students with a weaker mathematics self-concept. Our results provide evidence for a scientific account of the affective and motivational forces that shape why students forget educationally relevant content. We discuss the various educational practices that cue forgetting and make recommendations for reducing motivated forgetting in the classroom.

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