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Jian Zou

Xi Yang, Jian Zou.

This paper studies how school spending impacts student achievement by exploiting the US interstate branching deregulation as state tax revenue shocks. Leveraging school finance data from universal school districts, our difference-in-differences estimation reveals that deregulation leads to an increase in per-pupil total revenue and expenditure. The rise in revenue is primarily attributed to higher state revenues, while the expenditure increase is more prominent in low-income school districts. Using restricted-use student assessments from the Nation’s Report Card, we find that deregulation results in improved student achievement, with no distributional effects evident across students’ ability, race, or free lunch status. We introduce an instrumental variables approach that accounts for dynamic treatment effects and estimate that a one-thousand-dollar increase in per-pupil spending leads to a 0.035 standard deviation improvement in student achievement.

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Jian Zou.

Little is known about the impact of peer personality on human capital formation. This paper studies the peer effect of persistence, a personality trait that reflects perseverance when facing challenges and setbacks, on student achievement. Exploiting student-classroom random assignments in middle schools in China, I find having more persistent peers improves in student achievement. The effects are prominent in students with high and medium baseline persistence. I find three mechanisms: (i) students’ own persistence and self-disciplined behaviors increase; (ii) teachers become more responsible/patient and spend more time on teaching preparation; and (iii) endogenous friendship networks consisting of more academically successful peers and fewer disruptive peers develop, particularly among students who share with similar levels of persistence.

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Bobby W. Chung, Jian Zou.

The debate on the stringency of licensure exams for prospective public school teachers is on-going, including the recent controversial roll-out of the educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA). We leverage the quasi-experimental setting of different adoption timing by states and analyze multiple data sources containing a national sample of prospective teachers and students of new teachers in the US. With extensive controls of concurrent policies, we  find that the edTPA reduced prospective teachers in undergraduate programs, less-selective and minority-concentrated universities. Contrary to the policy intention, we do not  find evidence that edTPA increased student test scores.

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