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Brendan Bartanen, Aliza N. Husain, David D. Liebowitz, Laura K. Rogers.
Despite increasing recognition of the importance of high-quality school leadership, we know remarkably little about principal skill development. Using administrative data from Tennessee, Oregon, and New York City, we estimate the returns to principal experience as measured by student outcomes, teacher hiring and retention patterns, and teacher and supervisor ratings of principals. The typical principal leads a school for only 3–5 years and leaves the principalship after 6–7 years. We find little evidence that school performance improves as principals gain experience, despite substantial improvement in supervisor ratings. Our results suggest that strategies intended to increase principal retention are unlikely to improve school outcomes absent more comprehensive efforts to strengthen the link between principal skill development and student and school outcomes.

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Stefan Arora-Jonsson, Ema Kristina Demir, Axel Norgren, Karl Wennberg.

Research on school improvement has accumulated an extensive list of factors that facilitate turnarounds at underperforming schools. Given that contextual or resource constraints may limit the possibilities of putting all of these factors in place, an important question is what is necessary and sufficient to turn a school around. We use a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) of 77 Swedish schools studied over 12 years to answer this question. Our core finding is that there is no “silver bullet” solution. There are, instead, several distinct combinations of factors that can enable a turnaround. The local school context is essential for which combinations of factors are necessary and sufficient for school turnaround. We discuss implications for research on school improvement and education policy.

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Carly D. Robinson, Katharine Meyer, Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury, Amirpasha Zandieh, Susanna Loeb.

College students make job decisions without complete information. As a result, they may rely on misleading heuristics (“interesting jobs pay badly”) and pursue options misaligned with their goals. We test whether highlighting job characteristics changes decision making. We find increasing the salience of a job’s monetary benefits increases the likelihood college students apply by 196%. In contrast, emphasizing prosocial, career, or social benefits has no effect, despite students identifying these benefits as primary motivators for applying. The study highlights the detrimental incongruencies in students’ decision making alongside a simple strategy for recruiting college students to jobs that offer enriching experiences.

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David Blazar, Danett Song, Ramon Goings, Jay Plasman, Michael Gottfried.
Despite substantial interest in Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses in U.S. high schools—and associated scholarship on this topic—very little is known about characteristics of CTE teachers who are a critical resource for program implementation and expansion. Using eight years of statewide data from Maryland, we document key facts about the CTE teacher workforce and pathways into the profession. First, a sizable share (17%) of CTE teachers enter the profession with a high school diploma or associate’s degree, aligned to state policy that allows Professional and Technical Education-certified teachers to substitute years of professional experience for higher degrees. Relatedly, CTE teachers are substantially more likely than non-CTE teachers to enter the profession through an “alternative” path that bypasses traditional undergraduate teacher education (54% versus 30%). Finally, there is a larger share of Black teachers in CTE versus out of CTE (25% versus 16%), leading to greater opportunities for teacher-student race matching. We hypothesize that these patterns are related: decreased barriers to entry into the CTE teaching profession may support more Black individuals to become CTE teachers.

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Matthew A. Kraft, Virginia S. Lovison.

Budget constraints and limited supplies of local tutors have caused many K-12 school districts to pivot from individual tutoring in-person toward small-group tutoring online to expand access to personalized instruction. We conduct a field experiment to explore the effect of increasing student-tutor ratios on middle school students’ math achievement and growth during an online tutoring program. We leverage a novel feature of the program where tutors often taught individual and small-group tutoring sessions, allowing them to directly compare their experiences across these settings. Both experimental estimates and tutor survey responses suggest 1:1 tutoring is more effective than 3:1 tutoring online. Tutoring small groups in an online format presents additional challenges for personalizing instruction, developing relationships, fostering participation, and managing student behavior.

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Carleton H. Brown, David S. Knight.

This manuscript explores the argument for lower student-to-school counselor ratios in U.S. public education. Drawing upon a comprehensive historical review and existing research, we establish the integral role of school counselors and the notable benefits of reduced student-tocounselor ratios. Our analysis of national data exposes marked disparities across states and districts, with the most underfunded often serving higher percentages of low-income students and students of color. This situation raises significant ethical concerns, prompting a call for conscientious policy reform and targeted investment. Informed by emerging best practices, we propose recommendations for enhancing counselor staffing and ultimately student outcomes. This ethical argument underscores the need for proactive actions and provides a basis for future research to further delineate the impact of school counselor ratios on educational equity and student success.

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Jilli Jung, Andrew Fenelon.

A later school start time policy has been recommended as a solution to adolescents’ sleep deprivation. We estimated the impacts of later school start times on adolescents’ sleep and substance use by leveraging a quasi-experiment in which school start time was delayed in some regions in South Korea. A later school start time policy was implemented in 2014 and 2015, which delayed school start times approximately 30-90 minutes. We applied difference-in-differences and event-study designs to longitudinal data on a nationally-representative cohort of adolescents from 2010 to 2015, which annually tracked sleep and substance use of 1,133 adolescents from grade 7 through grade 12. The adoption of a later school start time policy was initially associated with a 19-minute increase in sleep duration (95% CI, 5.52 to 32.04), driven by a delayed wake time and consistent bedtime. The policy was also associated with statistically significant reductions in monthly smoking and drinking frequencies. However, approximately a year after implementation, the observed increase in sleep duration shrank to 7-minute (95% CI, -12.60 to 25.86) and became statistically nonsignificant. Similarly, the observed reduction in smoking and drinking was attenuated a year after. Our findings suggest that policies that increase sleep in adolescents may have positive effects on health behaviors, but additional efforts may be required to sustain positive impacts over time. Physicians and education and health policymakers should consider the long-term effects of later school start times on adolescent health and well-being.

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Gema Zamarro, Andrew Camp, Josh McGee, Taylor Wilson, Miranda Vernon.

Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers is a pressing policy concern. Increasing teacher salaries and creating more attractive compensation packages are often proposed as a potential solution. Signed into law in March 2023, the LEARNS Act increased Arkansas's minimum teacher salary from $36,000 to $50,000, guaranteed all teachers a minimum raise of $2,000, and added flexibility allowing school districts to deviate from seniority-based traditional salary schedules. To study school districts’ adjustments to the new legislation, we collected information about districts' teacher compensation policies one year before and the first year of implementation. We also integrated this data with teachers' administrative records to study patterns of teacher retention and mobility. Our results reveal a more equitable distribution of starting teacher salaries across districts, with minimal variation. The LEARNS Act notably increased funding for rural and high-poverty districts, mitigating the negative association between starting salaries and district poverty rates. However, the initial effects on teacher retention and mobility were modest. While some positive trends emerged, such as reduced probabilities of teachers transitioning to non-instructional roles and increased new teacher placement in geographic areas of shortage, broader impacts on retention and mobility were limited in the first year of implementation.

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Justin C. Ortagus, Hope Allchin, Benjamin Skinner, Melvin Tanner, Isaac McFarlin.

Most students who begin at a community college do not complete their desired credential. Many former students fail to graduate due to various barriers rather than their academic performance. To encourage previously successful non-completers to re-enroll and eventually graduate, a growing number of community colleges have implemented re-enrollment campaigns focused on former students who have already made substantial progress toward graduation. In this study, we randomly assigned over 27,000 former community college students to a control group, “information-only” treatment group, or “information and one-course waiver” treatment group to examine whether re-enrollment campaigns can improve their likelihood of long-term persistence and credential completion. Although we showed in earlier work that the “information and one-course waiver” treatment had a positive impact on former students’ likelihood of re-enrollment, our findings reveal the re-enrollment intervention has no effect on students’ likelihood of long-term persistence or credential completion for the pooled sample or any subgroup of interest, including low-income students, racially minoritized students, or adult students. Simply put, this particular re-enrollment intervention including one-time, one-course tuition waivers increased former students’ likelihood of re-enrollment but was not an effective lever to increase long-term academic outcomes among previously successful community college students who departed early without earning a credential.

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Andrew Camp.

The four-day school week is a school calendar that has become increasingly common following the COVID-19 pandemic. Proponents of the calendar often claim that offering teachers a regular 3-day weekend will help schools better retain existing teachers and recruit new teachers to their district without incurring additional costs due to higher salaries or other pecuniary benefits. However, there is scant empirical evidence assessing these claims. I use difference-in-differences and synthetic difference-in-differences models to assess the impact of four-day school week calendars on teacher retention and teacher quality in Arkansas. I find evidence that the calendar may help retain teachers who otherwise would have moved to another school and suggestive evidence that retention in non-adopting schools may be harmed by the four-day school week adoption in nearby districts. Results examining changes in teacher quality are inconclusive. These results have significant implications given the rapid growth in four-day school week calendars in recent years.

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