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Douglas D. Ready

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

Many school districts consider family preferences in allocating students to schools. In theory, this approach provides traditionally disadvantaged families greater access to high-quality schools by weakening the link between residential location and school assignment. We leverage data on the school choices made by over 233,000 New York City families to examine the extent to which the city’s school choice system fulfills this promise. We find that over-subscribed and high-quality schools enroll smaller proportions of students from traditionally disadvantaged families. We explore three mechanisms to explain this inequitable distribution: application timing, neighborhood stratification, and the architecture of the choice process itself. We find that all three mechanisms have a disequalizing influence and propose several policy shifts to address this inequality.

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Douglas D. Ready, Jeanne L. Reid.

New York City’s Pre-K for All (PKA) is the Nation’s largest universal early childhood initiative, currently serving some 70,000 four-year-olds. Stemming from the program’s choice architecture as well as the City’s stark residential segregation, PKA programs are extremely segregated by child race/ethnicity. Our current study explores the complex forces that influence this segregation, including the interplay between family choices, seat availability, site-level enrollment priorities, and the PKA algorithm that weighs these and other considerations. We find that a majority of PKA segregation lies within rather than between local communities, suggesting that reducing segregation would not necessarily require families to choose programs far from home. On a more troubling note, areas with increased options and greater racial/ethnic diversity also exhibit the most extreme segregation.

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Melissa Arnold Lyon, Shani S. Bretas, Douglas D. Ready.

Philanthropic investment in education has evolved considerably over the past several decades. This paper provides early evidence of another distinct adaptation, which we dub design philanthropy. In contrast to the macro-level structural reforms recently supported by large foundations, design philanthropy seeks to directly influence the instructional core. We describe the broad contours and characteristics of design philanthropy, which employs a centralized management and design system to support a decentralized approach to implementation. Through a case study of one design philanthropy’s reform initiative, we explore how participants experience this emergent process and manage a series of tensions inherent in the approach.

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