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EdWorkingPapers

Jack Mountjoy.

This paper studies the causal impacts of public universities on the outcomes of their marginally admitted students. I use administrative admission records spanning all 35 public universities in Texas, which collectively enroll 10 percent of American public university students, to systematically identify and employ decentralized cutoffs in SAT/ACT scores that generate discontinuities in admission and enrollment. The typical marginally admitted student completes an additional year of education in the four-year sector, is 12 percentage points more likely to earn a bachelor's degree, and eventually earns 5-10 percent more than their marginally rejected but otherwise identical counterpart. Marginally admitted students pay no additional tuition costs thanks to offsetting grant aid; cost-benefit calculations show internal rates of return of 19-23 percent for the marginal students themselves, 10-12 percent for society (which must pay for the additional education), and 3-4 percent for the government budget. Finally, I develop a method to disentangle separate effects for students on the extensive margin of the four-year sector versus those who would fall back to another four-year school if rejected. Substantially larger extensive margin effects drive the results.

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Ellen Sahlström, Mikko Silliman.

We study the extent and consequences of biases against immigrants exhibited by high school teachers in Finland. Compared to native students, immigrant students receive 0.06 standard deviation units lower scores from teachers than from blind graders. This effect is almost entirely driven by grading penalties incurred by high-performing immigrant students and is largest in subjects where teachers have more discretion in grading. While teacher-assigned grades on the matriculation exam are not used for tertiary enrollment decisions, we show that immigrant students who attend schools with biased teachers are less likely to continue to higher education.

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Douglas D. Ready, Sierra G. McCormick, Rebecca J. Shmoys.

This paper describes a 12-week cluster randomized controlled trial that examined the efficacy of BookNook, a virtual tutoring platform focused on reading. Cohorts of first- through fourth-grade students attending six Rocketship public charter schools in Northern California were randomly assigned within grades to receive BookNook. Intent-to-Treat models indicate that students in cohorts assigned to BookNook outperformed their control-group peers by roughly 0.05 SDs. Given the substantial variability in usage rates among students enrolled in BookNook cohorts, we also leveraged Treatment-on-the-Treated approaches. These models suggest that students who completed 10 or more BookNook sessions experienced a reading advantage of 0.08 SDs, while those who completed 20 or more sessions—the recommended dosage—experienced a 0.26 SD developmental advantage.

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Drew M. Anderson, David B. Monaghan, Jed Richardson.

This study found that the MATC Promise increased college attainment by encouraging Milwaukee high school students to access state and federal aid, and to consider matriculating to their local two-year college. The MATC Promise exemplifies the last-dollar model of college aid. If seniors at Milwaukee area public high schools complete academic milestones, apply for financial aid, qualify based on low family income, and matriculate to Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), then the Promise covers any remaining tuition charges. The message promoting free college was the program’s main element, since the funding support for eligible students came primarily from existing state and federal aid. We studied outcomes for the first four graduating classes after the Promise was launched, compared to the trend in Milwaukee for the previous six graduating classes. The rate of matriculation to MATC increased from 10 percent to 15 percent. There was no such increase in matriculation to other technical college districts around the state, suggesting that the increase was caused by the Promise. The increase in enrollment was larger among lower-income students and those in the urban Milwaukee Public Schools. Those students were more likely to apply for financial aid earlier, regardless of whether they ultimately qualified for the Promise, and their rate of matriculation to any college increased from 45 percent to 49 percent. There was no indication that attracting additional students to college led to lower graduation rates, though we were limited to examining credentials earned in two years or less.

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NaYoung Hwang.

This study examines the impact of special education on academic and behavioral outcomes for students with learning disabilities (LD) by using statewide Indiana data covering kindergarten through eighth grade. The results from student fixed effects models show that special education services improve achievement in math and English Language Arts, but they also increase suspensions and absences for students with LD. These effects vary across student subgroups, including gender, race/ethnicity, eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch, and English language learner status. The findings reveal both the significant benefits and unintended consequences of special education services for students with LD, highlighting the complex dynamics and varying effects of special education.

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Jesper Eriksen, Shaun M. Dougherty.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs are prevalent in a European context, but often struggle with drop-out rates that exceed those of general upper-secondary education. Using Danish administrative data, we study the effects of reform-induced reductions in shares of VET students who did not pass their lower secondary final exams on passing GPA VET students. We find that passing students have a higher probability of remaining enrolled in VET after the first year of studies when entering a VET school with a higher share of below-passing peers. Studying outside options, we find that students become less likely to drop out of education entirely. The results are consistent with models of peer effects in which particularly unmotivated students become points of comparison for their peers, increasing their motivation and likelihood of remaining enrolled.

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Arielle Boguslav.

Despite the common title of “coach,” definitions of high-quality coaching vary tremendously across models and programs. Yet, few studies make comparisons across different models to understand what is most helpful, for whom, and under what circumstances. As a result, practitioners are left with many options and little evidence-based direction. This is exacerbated by the literature’s focus on more abstract features of coaching practice (e.g. building trust), leaving practitioners to figure out what concrete discourse strategies support these goals. This paper begins to address these challenges by introducing a taxonomy of coaching “moves,” parsing the concrete details of coach discourse. While the taxonomy is informed by the literature, it highlights conceptual possibilities rather than providing a list of empirically-grounded or “evidence-based” strategies. In doing so, this taxonomy may serve as a common language to guide future work exploring how coach discourse shapes teacher development, synthesizing across studies, and supporting coach practice.

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Melissa Arnold Lyon, Joshua Bleiberg, Beth E. Schueler.

State takeover of school districts—a form of political centralization that shifts decision-making power from locally elected leaders to the state—has increased in recent years, often with the purported goal of improving district financial condition. Takeover has affected millions of students throughout the U.S. since the first takeover in 1988 and is most common in larger districts and communities serving large shares of low-income students and students of color. While previous research finds takeovers do not benefit student academic achievement on average, we investigate whether takeovers achieve their goal of improving financial outcomes. Using an event study approach, we find takeovers from 1990 to 2019 increased annual school spending by roughly $2,000 per pupil after five years, on average, leading to improvements in financial condition. Increased funding came primarily from state sources and funded districts’ legacy costs. However, takeover did not affect spending for districts with majority-Black student populations—which are disproportionately targeted for takeover—adding to a growing literature suggesting that takeover unequally affects majority-Black communities.

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Olivia L. Chi, Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Ariel Tichnor-Wagner, Sidrah Baloch.

Much recent debate among policymakers and policy advocates focuses on whether states should reduce teacher licensure requirements to ease the burdens of recruiting high quality teachers to the workforce. We examine the effectiveness of individuals who entered the teacher workforce in Massachusetts during the pandemic by obtaining an emergency license, which requires only a bachelor’s degree. Our results show that, in 2021-22, newly hired emergency licensed teachers: 1) were largely rated as proficient (82%) in their performance evaluation ratings and 2) had similar measures of student test score growth as their traditionally licensed peers. However, we find suggestive evidence that emergency licensed teachers with no prior employment in Massachusetts public schools and no prior engagement with the teacher pipeline (i.e., enrollment in teacher preparation, attempting licensure exams) received lower performance ratings and had lower measures of student test score growth in English Language Arts. Taken together, these results encourage the creation of additional flexibility in licensure requirements for those who have demonstrated prior efforts to join the educator pipeline.

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Anthony Yim.

Using a natural experiment which randomized class times to students, this study reveals that enrolling in early morning classes lowers students' course grades and the likelihood of future STEM course enrollment. There is a 79% reduction in pursuing the corresponding major and a 26% rise in choosing a lower-earning major, predominantly influenced by early morning STEM classes. To understand the mechanism, I conducted a survey of undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory course, some of whom were assigned to a 7:30 AM section. I find evidence of a decrease in human capital accumulation and learning quality for early morning sections.

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