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K-12 Education

Constance A. Lindsay, Simone Wilson, Jacqueline Kumar, Tia Byers, Seth Gershenson.

This paper investigates how teachers learn about race in the school context, with a particular focus on teachers’ development of racial competency. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews we find that teachers learn through three sources: from their peers, from years of experience, and from teacher preparation and in-service experiences. Furthermore, we find that learning occurs both informally and formally and that these sources of learning are moderated by three contextual factors: career status, school culture, and out-of-school factors We find that teachers rely most on informal avenues and encounters to develop racial competency.

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Shirin A. Hashim, Mary E. Laski.

Researchers have posited various theories to explain supposed declines in teaching quality: the expansion of labor market opportunities for women, low relative wages, compressed compensation structures, and substituting quantity for quality. We synthesize these previous theories and expand on the current literature by incorporating a useful comparison group: the nursing workforce. We document historical trends in skill level, average and relative wages, wage dispersion, unionization rates, and quantity, and find important divergences in the teaching and nursing professions that cannot be explained by previous theories. We posit two new theories that align with our documented trends: technological innovation and occupational differentiation in nursing. We argue that trends in the nursing profession indicate that declines in teaching quality were (and are) not inevitable.

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Alexandra de Gendre, Krzysztof Karbownik, Nicolas Salamanca, Yves Zenou.

We develop a multi-agent model of the education production function where investments of students, parents, and teachers are linked to the presence of minorities in the classroom. We then test the key implications of this model using rich survey data and a mandate to randomly assign students to classrooms. Consistent with our model, we show that exposure to minority peers decreases student effort, parental investments, and teacher engagement and it results in lower student test scores. Observables correlated with minority status explain less than a third of the reduced-form test score effect while over a third can be descriptively attributed to endogenous responses of the agents.

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Ezra Karger, Sarah Komisarow.

We investigate the beginning of the school discipline pipeline using a reform in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that limited the use of out-of- school suspension for students in grades K–2. We find that the reform reduced the likelihood of out-of-school suspension by 1.4 percentage points (56%) and had precise null effects on test scores and disciplinary infractions. This leads us to reject a key argument in favor of early-grade suspensions: namely, that early-grade suspensions improve classroom- level outcomes. For high-risk students, we find short-run increases in test scores that persist into third grade. The reform reduced the Black- white out-of-school suspension gap by 79%.

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Eric S. Taylor.

When employees expect evaluation and performance incentives will continue (or begin) in the future, the potential future rewards create an incentive to invest in relevant skills today. Because skills benefit job performance, the effects of evaluation can persist after the rewards end or even anticipate the start of rewards. I provide empirical evidence of these dynamics from a quasi-experiment in Tennessee schools. New performance measures improve teachers’ value-added contributions to student achievement. But improvements are twice as large when the teacher also expects future rewards linked to future scores. Value-added remains at the now higher level after performance incentives end.

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David Blazar, Wenjing Gao, Seth Gershenson, Ramon Goings, Francisco Lagos.

Local teacher recruitment through “grow-your-own” programs is a prominent strategy to address workforce shortages and ensure that incoming teachers resemble, understand, and have strong connections to their communities. We exploit the staggered rollout of the Teacher Academy of Maryland career and technical education certificate program across public high schools, finding that exposed students were more likely to become teachers by 0.6 percentage points (pp), or 47%. Effects are concentrated among White girls (1.4pp/39%) and Black girls (0.7pp/80%). We also identify positive impacts on wages (5% on average/18% for Black girls), countering a prevailing narrative that teaching leaves one worse off financially relative to other labor market opportunities.

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Michael Bates, Andrew C. Johnston.

Why do employers offer pensions? We empirically explore two theoretical rationales, namely that pensions may improve worker effort and worker selection. We examine these hypotheses using administrative measures on effort and output in public schools around the pension-eligibility notch. Worker effort and output do not fall as workers cross the eligibility threshold, implying that pensions may not elicit additional effort. As for selection, we find that pensions retain low-value-added and high-value-added workers at the same rate, suggesting pensions have little or no influence on selection.

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Juan Matta, Alexis Orellana.

Do residential neighbors affect each others' schooling choices? We exploit oversubscription lotteries in Chile's centralized school admission system to identify the effect of close neighbors on application and enrollment decisions. A student is 5-7% more likely to rank a high school as their first preference and to attend that school if their closest neighbor attended it the prior year. These effects are stronger among boys and applicants with lower parents' education and prior academic achievement, measured by previous scores in national standardized tests. Lower-achieving applicants are more likely to follow neighbors when their closest neighbor's test scores are higher. A neighbor enrolling in a school with one s.d. higher school effectiveness, peer composition, or school climate induces increases of 0.02-0.04 s.d. in the applicant's attended school. Our findings suggest that targeted policies aimed at increasing information to disadvantaged families have the potential to alleviate these frictions and generate significant multiplier effects.

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Jeonghyeok Kim.

Each year, over a thousand public schools in the US close due to declining enrollments and chronic low performance, displacing hundreds of thousands of students. Using Texas administrative data and empirical strategies that use within-student across-time and within-school across-cohort variation, I explore the impact of school closures on students' educational and labor market outcomes. The findings indicate that experiencing school closures results in disruptions in both test scores and behavior. While the drop in test scores is recovered within three years, behavioral issues persist. This study further finds decreases in post-secondary education attainment, employment, and earnings at ages 25–27. These impacts are particularly pronounced among students in secondary education, Hispanic students, and those from originally low-performing schools and economically disadvantaged families.

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Mary E. Laski.

Teacher shortages are a persistent challenge in the United States. I evaluate the effectiveness of an innovative pilot program that allowed principals to hand-select experienced staff members and paraeducators already working in schools to lead classrooms. Pilot educators are predominantly Black or African American. Districts reported randomly assigning students to teachers, and my analysis cannot reject randomization. Controlling for demographics and baseline scores, I find that students assigned to these pilot teachers perform just as well as those assigned to traditionally licensed teachers on average and outperform their peers in math. My results point to an untapped resource of potential teachers and underscore the value of principals’ local knowledge to identify capable candidates for teaching positions.

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