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Jonathan Mills

Douglas N. Harris, Jonathan Mills.

We provide evidence about college financial aid from an eight-year randomized trial where high school ninth graders received a $12,000 merit-based grant offer. The program was designed to be free of tuition/fees at community colleges and substantially lower the cost of four-year colleges. During high school, it increased students’ college expectations and low-cost effort, but not higher-cost effort, such as class attendance. The program likely increased two-year college graduation, perhaps because of the free college framing, but did not affect overall college entry, graduation, employment, incarceration, or teen pregnancy. Additional analysis helps explain these modest effects and variation in results across prior studies.

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Josh B. McGee, Jonathan Mills, Jessica Goldstein.

School district consolidation is one of the most widespread education reforms of the last century, but surprisingly little research has directly investigated its effectiveness. To examine the impact of consolidation on student achievement, this study takes advantage of a policy that requires the consolidation of all Arkansas school districts with enrollment of fewer than 350 students for two consecutive school years. Using a regression discontinuity model, we find that consolidation has either null or small positive impacts on student achievement in math and English Language Arts (ELA). We do not find evidence that consolidation in Arkansas results in positive economies of scale, either by reducing overall cost or allowing for a greater share of resources to be spent in the classroom.

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Nathan Barrett, Andrew McEachin, Jonathan Mills, Jon Valant.

Black and poor students are suspended from U.S. schools at higher rates than white and non-poor students. While the existence of these disparities has been clear, the causes of the disparities have not. We use a novel dataset to examine how and where discipline disparities arise. By comparing the punishments given to black and white (or poor and non-poor) students who fight one another, we address a selection challenge that has kept prior studies from identifying discrimination in student discipline. We find that black and poor students are, in fact, punished more harshly than the students with whom they fight.

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