Understanding Student Performance

Kevin Lewis

May 19, 2010

The U.S. Army, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Leadership for World War II, 1933-1942

Charles Heller
Armed Forces & Society, April 2010, Pages 439-453

Prior to World War II, the U.S. Army numbered 187,000 soldiers. Its growth to more than 8 million was a significant accomplishment. Little known to most, the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration's youth program, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), provided the pretrained manpower to fill the U.S. Army's ranks upon mobilization with men who readily assumed the role of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). It also gave Organized Reserve Corps officers the opportunity to occupy leadership positions, an experience that would have been unavailable otherwise. By the same token, it allowed the Regular Army to assess the leadership potential of both Regular and Reserve Officers in leading future citizen soldiers. Last, it provided the Army with an opportunity to exercise its mobilization plans.


The Falling Time Cost of College: Evidence from Half a Century of Time Use Data

Philip Babcock & Mindy Marks
NBER Working Paper, April 2010

Using multiple datasets from different time periods, we document declines in academic time investment by full-time college students in the United States between 1961 and 2003. Full-time students allocated 40 hours per week toward class and studying in 1961, whereas by 2003 they were investing about 27 hours per week. Declines were extremely broad-based, and are not easily accounted for by framing effects, work or major choices, or compositional changes in students or schools. We conclude that there have been substantial changes over time in the quantity or manner of human capital production on college campuses.


Sports Participation and Academic Performance: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health

Daniel Rees & Joseph Sabia
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

It has been argued that high school sports participation increases motivation and teaches teamwork and self-discipline. While several studies have shown that students who participate in athletic activities perform better in school than those who do not, it is not clear whether this association is a result of positive academic spillovers, or due to the influence of unobservables. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and a variety of statistical techniques designed to distinguish between these hypotheses, we examine the effect of sports participation on several measures of academic performance. Our results provide only limited evidence that sports participation leads to enhanced academic performance.


Priming Competence Diminishes the Link Between Cognitive Test Anxiety and Test Performance: Implications for the Interpretation of Test Scores

Jonas Lang & Jessica Lang
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Researchers disagree whether the correlation between cognitive test anxiety and test performance is causal or explainable by skill deficits, which lead to both cognitive test anxiety and lower test performance. Most causal theories of test anxiety assume that individual differences in cognitive test anxiety originate from differences in self-perceived competence. Accordingly, in the present research, we sought to temporarily heighten perceptions of competence using a priming intervention. Two studies with secondary- and vocational-school students (Ns = 219 and 232, respectively) contrasted this intervention with a no-priming control condition. Priming competence diminished the association between cognitive test anxiety and test performance by heightening the performance of cognitively test-anxious students and by lowering the performance of students with low levels of cognitive test anxiety. The findings suggest that cognitively test-anxious persons have greater abilities than they commonly show. Competency priming may offer a way to improve the situation of people with cognitive test anxiety.


Economics Coursework and Long-Term Behavior and Experiences of College Graduates in Labor Markets and Personal Finance

Sam Allgood, William Bosshardt, Wilbert Van Der Klaauw & Michael Watts
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Using survey data from over 2,000 students who attended one of four large public universities in 1976, 1986, or 1996, we investigate the relationship between taking more coursework in economics, or choosing economics as an undergraduate major, and a wide range of later decisions and outcomes in labor markets and personal finance, many of which have not been analyzed in earlier research. Generally, economics coursework and majoring in economics are significantly related to higher levels of earnings, home equity, and savings. They are also associated with working more hours and negatively related to completing graduate degrees (except the MBA). Among graduates with positive savings, those with more economics coursework invest more in individual stocks and money market accounts, and are more likely to have employer-provided life insurance. They have fewer credit cards, which are more often paid in full each month. Most of these findings also hold for graduates who majored in business, but on average economics majors worked more hours and earned more than business majors, were more likely to have been self-employed, and expected to retire at an older age. Business majors were more likely to have experienced a layoff, and were even less likely than economics majors to complete graduate degrees (except the MBA). Economics majors expected to save even more than business majors by retirement, and viewed short-term and precautionary motives for saving as more important. Finally, our results suggest that exposure to economics through course-taking is more important for later outcomes than actual performance in those courses.


Choice and Competition in Education Markets

Patrick Bayer & Robert McMillan
Duke University Working Paper, April 2010

This paper presents a new approach for measuring the effects of competition on school performance. We use an equilibrium sorting model to generate an intuitive measure of the competition each school faces, captured by the slope of the school's demand curve. We then show that this competition measure is positively related to school performance using rich Census data: a one standard-deviation increase in competitiveness leads to a 0.1 standard-deviation performance improvement, controlling for a host of other factors. This positive performance relationship is consistent with strong supply responsiveness, relevant to the school choice debate.


Correspondence Bias in Performance Evaluation: Why Grade Inflation Works

Don Moore, Samuel Swift, Zachariah Sharek & Francesca Gino
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Performance (such as a course grade) is a joint function of an individual's ability (such as intelligence) and the situation (such as the instructor's grading leniency). Prior research has documented a human bias toward dispositional inference, which ascribes performance to individual ability, even when it is better explained through situational influences on performance. It is hypothesized here that this tendency leads admissions decisions to favor students coming from institutions with lenient grading because those students have their high grades mistaken for evidence of high ability. Three experiments show that those who obtain high scores simply because of lenient grading are favored in selection. These results have implications for research on attribution because they provide a more stringent test of the correspondence bias and allow for a more precise measure of its size. Implications for university admissions and personnel selection decisions are also discussed.


Effects of Dormitory Living on Student Performance

Pedro De Araujo & James Murray
University of Wisconsin Working Paper, February 2010

Many large universities require freshman to live in dormitories on the basis that living on campus leads to better classroom performance and lower drop out incidence. Large universities also provide a number of academic services in dormitories such as tutoring and student organizations that encourage an environment conducive to learning. A survey was administered to college students at a large state school to determine what impact dormitory living has on student performance. We use a handful of instrumental variable strategies to account for the possibly endogenous decision to live on campus. We find a robust result across model specifications and estimation techniques that on average, living on campus increases GPA by between 0.19 to 0.97. That is, the estimate for the degree of improvement to student performance caused by living on campus ranges between one-fifth to one full letter grade.


Teacher Effects on Social and Behavioral Skills in Early Elementary School

Jennifer Jennings & Thomas DiPrete
Sociology of Education, April 2010, Pages 135-159

Although many recognize that social and behavioral skills play an important role in educational stratification, no studies have attempted to estimate teachers' effects on these outcomes. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), the authors estimate teacher effects on social and behavioral skills as well as on academic achievement. Teacher effects on social and behavioral skill development are sizeable, and are somewhat larger than teacher effects on academic development. Because-as is shown here-social and behavioral skills have a positive effect on the growth of academic skills in the early elementary grades, the teachers who are good at enhancing social and behavioral skills provide an additional indirect boost to academic skills in addition to their direct teaching of academic skills. Like previous studies, the authors find that observable characteristics of teachers and the instructional approaches utilized in their classrooms are weak predictors of teacher effects. However, the present results suggest that the teachers who produce better than average academic results are not always the same teachers who excel in enhancing social and behavioral skills.


Antecedents and Correlates of the Popular-Aggressive Phenomenon in Elementary School

Philip Rodkin & Glenn Roisman
Child Development, May/June 2010, Pages 837-850

This study identified correlates and developmental antecedents that distinguish popular-aggressive elementary school children from other youth. Drawing on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (N = 1022), popular-aggressive children were identified through teacher ratings over Grades 3-6. Potential correlates included social competence as rated by observers, mothers, and teachers. Potential developmental antecedents included cognitive functioning, maternal sensitivity, and participation in child care through age 4.5. Multinomial regressions allowed for the determination of group differences net of covariates such as gender, ethnicity, maternal education, and income-to-needs. Results showed that popular-aggressive elementary school children were distinguished from other youth as having had an extensive child-care history. Discussion focuses on developmental associations between child-care quantity and aggression.


Credit Card Ownership Among American High School Seniors: 1997-2008

Robert Scott
Journal of Family and Economic Issues, June 2010, Pages 151-160

The purpose of this study is to investigate the rise in credit card ownership rates among high school seniors in the United States. It uses the Jump$tart Coalition's cross-sectional surveys from 1997 to 2008 to analyze the determinants of credit card ownership among high school seniors. These results show that students with credit cards are less financially literate than students without credit cards; and students with credit cards in their own names are almost twice as likely to work during the school year for money. These findings help make a case for improved financial education and training, and institutional changes that limit the pervasive issuance of credit cards to high school students.


Prevalence of Insufficient, Borderline, and Optimal Hours of Sleep Among High School Students - United States, 2007

Danice Eaton, Lela McKnight-Eily, Richard Lowry, Geraldine Perry, Letitia Presley-Cantrell & Janet Croft
Journal of Adolescent Health, April 2010, Pages 399-401

We describe the prevalence of insufficient, borderline, and optimal sleep hours among U.S. high school students on an average school night. Most students (68.9%) reported insufficient sleep, whereas few (7.6%) reported optimal sleep. The prevalence of insufficient sleep was highest among female and black students, and students in grades 11 and 12.


Do Effects of Early Child Care Extend to Age 15 Years? Results From the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development

Deborah Lowe Vandell, Jay Belsky, Margaret Burchinal, Laurence Steinberg & Nathan Vandergrift
Child Development, May/June 2010, Pages 737-756

Relations between nonrelative child care (birth to 4½ years) and functioning at age 15 were examined (N = 1,364). Both quality and quantity of child care were linked to adolescent functioning. Effects were similar in size as those observed at younger ages. Higher quality care predicted higher cognitive-academic achievement at age 15, with escalating positive effects at higher levels of quality. The association between quality and achievement was mediated, in part, by earlier child-care effects on achievement. High-quality early child care also predicted youth reports of less externalizing behavior. More hours of nonrelative care predicted greater risk taking and impulsivity at age 15, relations that were partially mediated by earlier child-care effects on externalizing behaviors.


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