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Multiple outcomes of education

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Matthew H. Lee, John Thompson, Eric Wearne.

Hybrid school enrollments are trending up and many parents express a diverse range of reasons for enrolling their children in hybrid schools. Yet little is known about the pedagogical goals pursued by hybrid schools. We aim to help close this gap in the literature with a stated preferences experiment of hybrid school leaders’ perceptions of program success. Sixty-three school leaders participated in a survey experiment in which we randomly assigned attributes to hypothetical programs and asked school leaders to identify the most successful program. We find that hybrid school leaders consider a broad range of student outcomes when evaluating program success, including labor market outcomes, civic outcomes, and family life. Students’ religious observance produced the largest effect sizes, a reasonable finding considering that roughly two-thirds of the schools represented in our sample have some religious affiliation. We do not find evidence that test score outcomes and higher education matriculation contribute meaningfully to perceived success.

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Taylor Odle, Lauren Russell.

There is substantial variation in the returns to a college degree. One determinant is whether a worker’s employment is “matched” with their education. With a novel education-industry crosswalk and panel data on 295,000 graduates, we provide the first estimates of an education-industry match premium leveraging within-person variation in earnings. We document which majors have the most and least matching, how earnings premia vary across fields and gender, and how premia evolve over time. With robust estimators, we show that workers in industries “matched” with their degree experience an average earnings premium of 7-11%, with variation by degree level and major.

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S. Colby Woods, Michael Gottfried, Kevin Gee.

Students in the foster care system tend to have lower educational outcomes than their peers, including more frequent disciplinary events. However, few studies have explored how transitions into and out of foster care placements are associated with educational outcomes. Using longitudinal data from four California school districts, this study investigated the dynamics of entering versus exiting foster care to predict school discipline and how this relationship ultimately influences absenteeism. Our findings suggest that students in foster care are more likely than their peers to face disciplinary action, especially exclusionary discipline, particularly when entering foster care. We also find suggestive evidence that disciplinary actions upon entry increase student absenteeism for students in foster care.

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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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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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Carly D. Robinson, Cynthia Pollard, Sarah Novicoff, Sara White, Susanna Loeb.

In-person tutoring has been shown to improve academic achievement. Though less well-researched, virtual tutoring has also shown a positive effect on achievement but has only been studied in grade five or above. We present findings from the first randomized controlled trial of virtual tutoring for young children (grades K-2). Students were assigned to 1:1 tutoring, 2:1 tutoring, or a control group. Assignment to any virtual tutoring increased early literacy skills by 0.05-0.08 SD with the largest effects for 1:1 tutoring (0.07-0.12 SD). Students initially scoring well below benchmark and first graders experienced the largest gains from 1:1 tutoring (0.15 and 0.20 SD, respectively). Effects are smaller than typically seen from in-person early literacy tutoring programs but still positive and statistically significant, suggesting promise particularly in communities with in-person staffing challenges.

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Paiheng Xu, Jing Liu, Nathan Jones, Julie Cohen, Wei Ai.

Assessing instruction quality is a fundamental component of any improvement efforts in the education system. However, traditional manual assessments are expensive, subjective, and heavily dependent on observers’ expertise and idiosyncratic factors, preventing teachers from getting timely and frequent feedback. Different from prior research that focuses on low-inference instructional practices, this paper presents the first study that leverages Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to assess multiple high-inference instructional practices in two distinct educational settings: in-person K-12 classrooms and simulated performance tasks for pre-service teachers. This is also the first study that applies NLP to measure a teaching practice that has been demonstrated to be particularly effective for students with special needs. We confront two challenges inherent in NLP-based instructional analysis, including noisy and long input data and highly skewed distributions of human ratings. Our results suggest that pretrained Language Models (PLMs) demonstrate performances comparable to the agreement level of human raters for variables that are more discrete and require lower inference, but their efficacy diminishes with more complex teaching practices. Interestingly, using only teachers’ utterances as input yields strong results for student-centered variables, alleviating common concerns over the difficulty of collecting and transcribing high-quality student speech data in in-person teaching settings. Our findings highlight both the potential and the limitations of current NLP techniques in the education domain, opening avenues for further exploration.

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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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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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Jeremy Singer.

Educational policymakers, leaders, and researchers are paying increasing attention to student attendance and chronic absenteeism, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though researchers have documented the consequences and causes of absenteeism, there is limited empirical evidence about what schools and districts are actually doing to improve attendance. This study presents evidence about the types of attendance practices that forty-seven high-absenteeism districts in Michigan are planning and implementing. I draw on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data from principal surveys, case studies, observations, and school improvement plans. In the 2022-23 school year, principals reported using communication practices, incentives, and to an extent providing resources to address barriers to attendance. In improvement plans, districts planned to create new organizational infrastructure and hire new personnel, with less emphasis on specific practices. These findings highlight a reliance on communication-based strategies and limited existing organizational infrastructure for addressing attendance. Though these districts have planned to develop new attendance systems and practices, it is unclear whether they will substantially reduce absenteeism, since they do not substantially address social and economic inequalities at the root of high absenteeism rates. I conclude with recommendations for monitoring new attendance practices, addressing root causes, and avoiding counterproductive practices.

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