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Brian Jacob

Brian Jacob.

Media reports suggest that parent frustration with COVID school policies and the growing politicization of education have increased community engagement with local public schools. However, there is no evidence to date on whether these factors have translated into greater engagement at the ballot box. This paper uses a novel data set to explore how school board elections changed following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I find that school board elections post-COVID were more likely to be contested, and that voter turnout in contested elections increased. These changes were large in magnitude and varied with several district characteristics.

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Stacey L. Brockman, Jasmina Camo-Biogradlija, Alyssa Ratledge, Rebekah O’Donoghue, Micah Y. Baum, Brian Jacob.

Detroit students who obtain a college degree overcome many obstacles to do so. This paper reports the results of a randomized evaluation of a program meant to provide support to low-income community college students. The Detroit Promise Path (DPP) program was designed to complement an existing College Promise scholarship, providing students with coaching, summer engagement, and financial incentives. The evaluation found that students offered the program enrolled in more semesters and earned more credits compared with those offered the scholarship alone. However, at the three-year mark, there were no discernable impacts on degrees earned. This paper examines systemic barriers to degree completion and offers lessons for the design of interventions to increase equity in postsecondary attainment.

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Christina Weiland, Rebecca Unterman, Susan Dynarski, Rachel Abenavoli, Howard Bloom, Breno Braga, Anne-Marie Faria, Erica Greenberg, Brian Jacob, Jane Arnold Lincove, Karen Manship, Meghan McCormick, Luke Miratrix, Tomás E. Monarrez, Pamela Morris-Perez, Anna Shapiro, Jon Valant, Lindsay Weixler.

Lottery-based identification strategies offer potential for generating the next generation of evidence on U.S. early education programs.  Our collaborative network of five research teams applying this design in early education and methods experts has identified six challenges that need to be carefully considered in this next context: 1) available baseline covariates may not be very rich; 2) limited data on the counterfactual; 3) limited and inconsistent outcome data; 4) weakened internal validity due to attrition; 5) constrained external validity due to who competes for oversubscribed programs; and 6) difficulties answering site-level questions with child-level randomization.  We offer potential solutions to these six challenges and concrete recommendations for the design of future lottery-based early education studies.

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Alvin Christian, Brian Jacob, John D. Singleton.

The COVID-19 pandemic drew new attention to the role of school boards in the U.S. In this paper, we examine school districts' choices of learning modality -- whether and when to offer in-person, virtual, or hybrid instruction -- over the course of the 2020-21 pandemic school year. The analysis takes advantage of granular weekly data on learning mode and COVID-19 cases for Ohio school districts. We show that districts respond on the margin to health risks: all else equal, a marginal increase in new cases reduces the probability that a district offers in-person instruction the next week. Moreover, this negative response is magnified when the district was in-person the prior week and attenuates in magnitude over the school year. These findings are consistent with districts learning from experience about the effect of in-person learning on disease transmission in schools. We also find evidence that districts are influenced by the decisions of their peers.

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Cassandra M. D. Hart, Brian Jacob, Susanna Loeb.

A common rationale for offering online courses in K-12 schools is that they allow students to take courses not offered at their schools; however, there has been little research on how online courses are used to expand curricular options when operating at scale. We assess the extent to which students and schools use online courses for this purpose by analyzing statewide, student-course level data from high school students in Florida, which has the largest virtual sector in the nation. We introduce a “novel course” framework to address this question. We define a virtual course as “novel” if it is only available to a student virtually, not face-to-face through their own home high school. We find that 7% of high school students in 2013-14 enroll in novel online courses. Novel courses were more commonly used by higher-achieving students, in rural schools, and in schools with relatively few Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate offerings.

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