Their kids

Kevin Lewis

October 30, 2017

Teacher Effects on Complex Cognitive Skills and Social-Emotional Competencies
Matthew Kraft
Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming


I exploit the random assignment of class rosters in the MET Project to estimate teacher effects on students’ performance on complex open-ended tasks in math and reading, as well as their growth mindset, grit, and effort in class. I find large teacher effects across this expanded set of outcomes, but weak relationships between these effects and performance measures used in current teacher evaluation systems including value-added to state standardized tests. These findings suggest teacher effectiveness is multidimensional, and high-stakes evaluation decisions are only weakly informed by the degree to which teachers are developing students’ complex cognitive skills and social-emotional competencies.

The Non-Market Benefits of Education and Ability
James Heckman, John Eric Humphries & Gregory Veramendi
NBER Working Paper, October 2017


This paper analyzes the non-market benefits of education and ability. Using a dynamic model of educational choice we estimate returns to education that account for selection bias and sorting on gains. We investigate a range of non-market outcomes including incarceration, mental health, voter participation, trust, and participation in welfare. We find distinct patterns of returns that depend on the levels of schooling and ability. Unlike the monetary benefits of education, the benefits to education for many non-market outcomes are greater for low-ability persons. College graduation decreases welfare use, lowers depression, and raises self-esteem more for less-able individuals.

Teachers’ unions and school performance: Evidence from California charter schools
Jordan Matsudaira & Richard Patterson
Economics of Education Review, December 2017, Pages 35-50


We examine the impact of unions on the quality of educational production by studying a wave of unionization among California charter schools and administrative data on student achievement. We first present new data showing that unions are much more prevalent among charter schools than suggested by previous studies. Using a difference-in-differences identification strategy, we find that unionization increases achievement in mathematics and has no statistically significant impact on English test scores.

The End of Free College in England: Implications for Quality, Enrolments, and Equity
Richard Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton & Gillian Wyness
NBER Working Paper, September 2017


Despite increasing financial pressures on higher education systems throughout the world, many governments remain resolutely opposed to the introduction of tuition fees, and some countries and states where tuition fees have been long established are now reconsidering free higher education. This paper examines the consequences of charging tuition fees on university quality, enrolments, and equity. To do so, we study the English higher education system which has, in just two decades, moved from a free college system to one in which tuition fees are among the highest in the world. Our findings suggest that England’s shift has resulted in increased funding per head, rising enrolments, and a narrowing of the participation gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. In contrast to other systems with high tuition fees, the English system is distinct in that its income-contingent loan system keeps university free at the point of entry, and provides students with comparatively generous assistance for living expenses. We conclude that tuition fees, at least in the English case supported their goals of increasing quality, quantity, and equity in higher education.

Does college football impact the size of university applicant pools and the quality of entering students?
Steven Caudill, Shannon Hourican & Franklin Mixon
Applied Economics, forthcoming


The role played by collegiate athletics in furthering the mission of institutions of higher education has been one of the more active research streams in the economics literature. Two areas of emphasis in this particular genre concern the relationship between athletics success and the size of a university’s applicant pool, and the relationship between athletics success and the quality of a university’s incoming class. This study extends both lines of research above by employing a unique panel data set consisting of 10 institutions that either added or eliminated college football between 1997 and 2015 in order to examine the impact of the presence of college football programme on both the size of university applicant pools and the quality of the students chosen for admission. Results from a panel data estimator presented here suggest that the size of their applicant pool shrinks the year following discontinuation of a college football programme. In the case of ACT scores, the results are similar, indicating that the ACT scores of incoming freshmen decrease after discontinuation of football.

Do Parents Value School Effectiveness?
Atila Abdulkadiroglu et al.
NBER Working Paper, October 2017


School choice may lead to improvements in school productivity if parents' choices reward effective schools and punish ineffective ones. This mechanism requires parents to choose schools based on causal effectiveness rather than peer characteristics. We study relationships among parent preferences, peer quality, and causal effects on outcomes for applicants to New York City's centralized high school assignment mechanism. We use applicants' rank-ordered choice lists to measure preferences and to construct selection-corrected estimates of treatment effects on test scores and high school graduation. We also estimate impacts on college attendance and college quality. Parents prefer schools that enroll high-achieving peers, and these schools generate larger improvements in short- and long-run student outcomes. We find no relationship between preferences and school effectiveness after controlling for peer quality.

Does Partisan Affiliation Impact the Distribution of Spending? Evidence from State Governments’ Expenditures on Education
Andrew Hill & Daniel Jones
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, November 2017, Pages 58-77


How and why does partisan affiliation impact policy? Using a regression discontinuity strategy and focusing on state education spending, we find that Democratic and Republican governors allocate spending differently. In particular, school districts with higher shares of minority students receive larger state transfers than other districts under Democratic governors. A similar pattern occurs in state transfers to higher education institutions. This is true regardless of whether the governor is eligible for reelection; we find no evidence that Democrat governors are simply sending money to areas with a larger share of Democrats. These results suggest that the observed policy divergence is driven by differences in preferences of elected candidates.

Broken Tax Breaks? Evidence from a Tax Credit Information Experiment with 1,000,000 Students
Peter Bergman, Jeffrey Denning & Day Manoli
Brigham Young University Working Paper, September 2017


There is increasing evidence that tax credits for college do not affect college enrollment. This may be because prospective students do not know about tax benefits for credits or because the design of tax credits is not conducive to affecting educational outcomes. We focus on changing the salience of tax benefits by providing information about tax benefits for college using a sample of over 1 million students or prospective students in Texas. We sent emails and letters to students that described tax benefits for college and tracked college outcomes. For all three of our samples – rising high school seniors, already enrolled students, and students who had previously applied to college but were not currently enrolled – information about tax benefits for college did not affect enrollment or reenrollment. We test whether effects vary according to information frames and found that no treatment arms changed student outcomes. We conclude that salience is not the primary reason that tax credits for college do not affect enrollment.

Vocational and Career Tech Education in American High Schools: The Value of Depth Over Breadth
Daniel Kreisman & Kevin Stange
NBER Working Paper, September 2017


Vocational education is a large part of the high school curriculum, yet we have little understanding of what drives vocational enrollment or whether these courses help or harm early careers. To address this we develop a framework for curriculum choice, taking into account ability and preferences for academic and vocational work. We test model predictions using detailed transcript and earnings information from the NLSY97. Our results are two-fold. First, students positively sort into vocational courses, suggesting the belief that low ability students are funneled into vocational coursework is unlikely true. Second, we find higher earnings among students taking more upper-level vocational courses – a nearly 2% wage premium for each additional year, yet we find no gain from introductory vocational courses. These results suggest (a) policies limiting students’ ability to take vocational courses may not be welfare enhancing, and (b) the benefits of vocational coursework accrue to those who focus on depth over breadth.

The Contribution of Associate's Degree Holders to U.S. Earnings, Labor Quality, Productivity, and Overall Economic Growth
Ross Gittell, Jon Samuels & Edinaldo Tebaldi
Southern Economic Journal, October 2017, Pages 600–636


There is substantial evidence on the importance of education as a driver of earnings, productivity, and economic growth. However, knowledge of the specific role of associate's degrees in U.S. economic growth is limited. We analyze the sources of U.S. economic growth and identify the contribution of associate's degree holders to improvements in earnings, labor quality, productivity, and overall economic growth. We find evidence that substitution toward workers with associate's degrees has increased U.S. earnings, aggregate labor quality, and productivity, and that these effects are concentrated in the health care, trade, and government sectors. While the average educational attainment of people entering the labor force has plateaued, our results suggest that shifting workers from some college to associate degrees could improve earnings, the quality of the workforce, productivity, and growth, potentially without more time spent in school.

The Buck Stops with the Education Mayor: Mayoral Control and Local Test Scores in U.S. Urban Mayoral Elections
Celeste Lay & Michael Tyburski
Politics & Policy, forthcoming


Several U.S. cities have turned control of their schools from elected boards to the mayor. Advocates of mayoral control have argued that this structure allows voters to hold the mayor directly accountable for the performance of local schools. Now that public schools have to report their test scores each year, it is possible for voters to attribute responsibility for test scores. This article analyzes survey data from 16 cities in the United States that have been matched with data on test scores. We find that, in general, test score changes are not associated with support for incumbent mayors, except in districts with mayoral control, where voters reward incumbents when test scores rise. Further, voters' beliefs about local schools condition their support for the incumbent. In cities with mayoral control, voters who evaluate schools positively reward mayors while voters who believe their schools are poor are not swayed by this positive information.

ProPelled: The Effects of Grants on Graduation, Earnings, and Welfare
Jeffrey Denning, Benjamin Marx & Lesley Turner
NBER Working Paper, September 2017


We estimate the effect of grant aid on poor college students' attainment and earnings using student-level administrative data from four-year public colleges in Texas. To identify these effects, we exploit a discontinuity in grant generosity as a function of family income. Eligibility for the maximum Pell Grant significantly increases degree receipt and earnings beginning four years after entry. Within ten years, imputed taxes on eligible students' earnings gains fully recoup total government expenditures generated by initial eligibility. To clarify how these estimates relate to social welfare, we develop a general theoretical model and derive sufficient statistics for the welfare implications of changes in the price of college. Whether additional grant aid increases welfare depends on (1) net externalities from recipients' behavioral responses and (2) a direct effect of mitigating credit constraints or other frictions that inflate students' in-school marginal utility. Calibrating our model using nationally representative consumption data suggests that increasing grant aid for the average college student by $1 could generate negative externalities as high as $0.50 and still improve welfare. Applying our welfare formula and estimated direct effects to our setting and others suggests considerable welfare gains from grants that target low-income students.

School District Reform in Newark: Within- and Between-School Changes in Achievement Growth
Mark Chin et al.
NBER Working Paper, October 2017


In 2011-12, Newark launched a set of educational reforms supported by a gift from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. Using data from 2009 through 2016, we evaluate the change in Newark students’ achievement growth relative to similar students and schools elsewhere in New Jersey. We measure achievement growth using a “value-added” model, controlling for prior achievement, demographics and peer characteristics. By the fifth year of reform, Newark saw statistically significant gains in English and no significant change in math achievement growth. Perhaps due to the disruptive nature of the reforms, growth declined initially before rebounding in recent years. Aided by the closure of low value-added schools, much of the improvement was due to shifting enrollment from lower- to higher-growth district and charter schools. Shifting enrollment accounted for 62 percent of the improvement in English. In math, such shifts offset what would have been a decline in achievement growth.

School Bond Referendum, Capital Expenditure, and Student Achievement
Kai Hong
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, forthcoming


In the United States, the reform of the financial system of capital expenditure is under consideration, as people believe the current system through local referenda contributes to inequality in student achievement across school districts. Several studies using a regression discontinuity design (RDD) find zero to modest positive effects of capital expenditure on student achievement; however, these studies identify only the effect of capital expenditure financed by a marginally passed bond with a vote share at the cutoff. In this paper I estimate the average effect of capital expenditure on student achievement by incorporating a latent factor model into the existing RDD framework, and comparing school districts that are similar in their underlying confounding variables, namely preferences for educational investment. The results show that, on average, capital expenditure financed by a passed bond does not have significant effect on student achievement.

The misleading narrative of the canonical faculty productivity trajectory
Samuel Way et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming


A scientist may publish tens or hundreds of papers over a career, but these contributions are not evenly spaced in time. Sixty years of studies on career productivity patterns in a variety of fields suggest an intuitive and universal pattern: Productivity tends to rise rapidly to an early peak and then gradually declines. Here, we test the universality of this conventional narrative by analyzing the structures of individual faculty productivity time series, constructed from over 200,000 publications and matched with hiring data for 2,453 tenure-track faculty in all 205 PhD-granting computer science departments in the United States and Canada. Unlike prior studies, which considered only some faculty or some institutions, or lacked common career reference points, here we combine a large bibliographic dataset with comprehensive information on career transitions that covers an entire field of study. We show that the conventional narrative confidently describes only one-fifth of faculty, regardless of department prestige or researcher gender, and the remaining four-fifths of faculty exhibit a rich diversity of productivity patterns. To explain this diversity, we introduce a simple model of productivity trajectories and explore correlations between its parameters and researcher covariates, showing that departmental prestige predicts overall individual productivity and the timing of the transition from first- to last-author publications. These results demonstrate the unpredictability of productivity over time and open the door for new efforts to understand how environmental and individual factors shape scientific productivity.

Evaluating the Impact of Performance Funding in Ohio and Tennessee
Nicholas Hillman, Alisa Hicklin Fryar & Valerie Crespín-Trujillo
American Educational Research Journal, forthcoming


Today, 35 states use performance-based funding models tying appropriations directly to educational outcomes. Financial incentives should induce colleges to improve performance, but there are several well-documented reasons why this is unlikely to occur. We examine how two of the most robust performance funding states — Tennessee and Ohio — responded to the policy. Using a difference-in-differences design, findings point to null and negative effects where colleges responded by producing fewer associate’s degrees or not increasing bachelor’s degree productivity. The only positive and robust effects were found among Tennessee community colleges that responded by producing significantly more certificates. Findings are consistent with performance management literature, where policy impacts are often muted or limited to a narrow range of outcomes.

What's in a Teacher Test? Assessing the Relationship Between Teacher Licensure Test Scores and Student STEM Achievement and Course-Taking
Dan Goldhaber, Trevor Gratz & Roddy Theobald
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming


We investigate the relationship between teacher licensure test scores and student test achievement and high school course-taking. We focus on three subject/grade combinations — middle school math, ninth-grade algebra and geometry, and ninth-grade biology — and find evidence that a teacher's basic skills test scores are modestly predictive of student achievement in middle school math and highly predictive of student achievement in high school biology. A teacher's subject-specific licensure test scores are a consistent and statistically significant predictor of student achievement only in high school biology. Finally, we find little evidence that students assigned to middle school teachers with higher basic-skills test scores are more likely to take advanced math and science courses in high school.

The Effects of Accountability Incentives in Early Childhood Education
Daphna Bassok, Thomas Dee & Scott Latham
NBER Working Paper, September 2017


In an effort to enhance the quality of early childhood education (ECE) at scale, nearly all U.S. states have recently adopted Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). These accountability systems give providers and parents information on program quality and create both reputational and financial incentives for program improvement. However, we know little about whether these accountability reforms operate as theorized. This study provides the first empirical evidence on this question using data from North Carolina, a state with a mature QRIS. Using a regression discontinuity design, we examine how quasi-random assignment to a lower quality rating influenced subsequent outcomes of ECE programs. We find that programs responded to a lower quality rating with comparative performance gains, including improvement on a multi-faceted measure of classroom quality. Programs quasi-randomly assigned to a lower star rating also experienced enrollment declines, which is consistent with the hypothesis that parents responded to information about program quality by selectively enrolling away from programs with lower ratings. These effects were concentrated among programs that faced higher levels of competition from nearby providers.

Does Regulation Induce Homogenization? An Analysis of Three Voucher Programs in the United States
Corey DeAngelis & Lindsey Burke
University of Arkansas Working Paper, September 2017


We employ school and year fixed-effects regression to determine the effect of voucher programs on the supply of private schools. In particular, we examine individual private schools in Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Louisiana as they transition into voucher program environments. We leverage the Private School Universe Survey to examine how schools self-identify before and after switching into voucher environments. We find that upon switching into school voucher programs, private schools in more heavily regulated programs are more likely to identify as less specialized than they were prior to entering the program, and that those schools in more lightly regulated environments continue to highlight their specialized approach to education. These findings are examined within an institutional theory framework to understand the potential homogenizing effect of regulations on the diversity of the private school market.

Effects of a school readiness intervention on hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis functioning and school adjustment for children in foster care
Alice Graham et al.
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming


Maltreated children in foster care are at high risk for dysregulated hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis functioning and educational difficulties. The present study examined the effects of a short-term school readiness intervention on HPA axis functioning in response to the start of kindergarten, a critical transition marking entry to formal schooling, and whether altered HPA axis functioning influenced children's school adjustment. Compared to a foster care comparison group, children in the intervention group showed a steeper diurnal cortisol slope on the first day of school, a pattern previously observed among nonmaltreated children. A steeper first day of school diurnal cortisol slope predicted teacher ratings of better school adjustment (i.e., academic performance, appropriate classroom behaviors, and engagement in learning) in the fall of kindergarten. Furthermore, the children's HPA axis response to the start of school mediated the effect of the intervention on school adjustment. These findings support the potential for ameliorative effects of interventions targeting critical transitional periods, such as the transition of formal schooling. This school readiness intervention appears to influence stress neurobiology, which in turn facilitates positive engagement with the school environment and better school adjustment in children who have experienced significant early adversity.

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