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Program and policy effects

Andrew Kwok, Joseph Waddington, Jenna Davis, Sara Halabi, Debbee Huston, Rita Hemsley.

Our study examines roughly 2,000 novice teachers’ responses about how they account for students’ cultural, ethnic/racial, and linguistic diversity. We qualitatively analyze robust open-ended survey responses to explore teachers’ reported strategies for how they integrate asset-based pedagogy (ABP). We identify codes related to these strategies and then investigate them by participant demographics. This illuminates both the predictive validity of our qualitative analyses as well as provides initial evidence as to whether certain characteristics are associated with critical techniques. Our findings inform practitioners of a suite of ABP strategies as well as districts and policymakers about how novice teachers are processing asset-based instruction and who to target support in this vital pedagogical area.

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Preeya P. Mbekeani, John Papay, Ann Mantil, Richard J. Murnane.

Improving education and labor market outcomes for low-income students is critical for advancing socioeconomic mobility in the United States. We explore how Massachusetts public high schools affect the longer-term outcomes of low-income students, using detailed longitudinal data. We estimate school value-added impacts on four-year college graduation and earnings. Similar students who attend schools at the 80th percentile of the distribution are 6 percentage points more likely to graduate from a four-year college and earn 13% (or $3,600) more annually at age 30 compared to peers who attend schools at the 20th percentile. We consider how school effectiveness across a range of short-term measures relates to longer-run impacts. Schools that improve students’ test scores and college aspirations improve longer-run outcomes more.

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Hernando Grueso.

Given the spike of homicides in conflict zones of Colombia after the 2016 peace agreement, I study the causal effect of violence on college test scores. Using a difference-in-difference design with heterogeneous effects, I show how this increase in violence had a negative effect on college learning, and how this negative effect is mediated by factors such as poverty, college major, degree type, and study mode. A 10% increase in the homicide rate per 100,000 people in conflict zones of Colombia, had a negative impact on college test scores equivalent to 0.07 standard deviations in the English section of the test. This negative effect is larger in the case of poor and female students who saw a negative effect of approximately 0.16 standard deviations, equivalent to 3.4 percentage points out of the final score. Online and short-cycle students suffer a larger negative effect of 0.14 and 0.19 standard deviations respectively. This study provides among the first evidence of the negative effect of armed conflict on college learning and offers policy recommendations based on the heterogeneous effects of violence.

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Whitney Kozakowski.

Four-year public colleges may play an important role in supporting intergenerational mobility by providing an accessible path to a bachelor’s degree and increasing students' earnings. Leveraging a midsize state’s GPA- and SAT-based admissions thresholds for the four-year public sector, I use a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of four-year public college admissions on earnings and college costs. For low-income students and Black, Hispanic, or Native American students, admission to four-year public colleges increases mean annual earnings by almost $8,000 eight to fourteen years after applying without increasing the private costs of college. The state recovers the cost of an additional four-year public college admission through increased lifetime tax revenue. Expanding access to four-year public colleges may be a particularly effective way to improve the economic outcomes of low-income students and Black, Hispanic, or Native American students.

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Jing Liu, Emily Penner, Wenjing Gao.

Teachers’ sense-making of student behavior determines whether students get in trouble and are formally disciplined. Status categories, such as race, can influence perceptions of student culpability, but the degree to which teachers’ initial identification of student misbehavior exacerbates racial disproportionality in discipline receipt is unknown.This study provides the first systematic documentation of teachers’ use of office discipline Referrals (ODRs) in a large, diverse urban school district in California that specifies the identity of both the referred and referring individuals in all ODRs. We identify teachers exhibiting extensive referring behavior, or the top 5 percent referrers based on the number of ODRs they make in a given year and evaluate their contributions to disciplinary disparities. We find that “top referrers” effectively double the racial gaps in ODRs for both Black-White and Hispanic-White comparisons. These gaps are mainly driven by higher numbers of ODRs issued for Black and Hispanic students due to interpersonal offences and defiance, and also partially convert to racial gaps in suspensions. Both the level and racial compositions of the school sites where “top referrers” serve and their personal traits seem to explain some of their frequent referring behavior. Targeting supports and interventions to “top referrers” might afford an important opportunity to reduce racial disciplinary gaps

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Christina Weiland, Rebecca Unterman, Susan Dynarski, Rachel Abenavoli, Howard Bloom, Breno Braga, Anne-Marie Faria, Erica Greenberg, Brian Jacob, Jane Arnold Lincove, Karen Manship, Meghan McCormick, Luke Miratrix, Tomás E. Monarrez, Pamela Morris-Perez, Anna Shapiro, Jon Valant, Lindsay Weixler.

Lottery-based identification strategies offer potential for generating the next generation of evidence on U.S. early education programs.  Our collaborative network of five research teams applying this design in early education and methods experts has identified six challenges that need to be carefully considered in this next context: 1) available baseline covariates may not be very rich; 2) limited data on the counterfactual; 3) limited and inconsistent outcome data; 4) weakened internal validity due to attrition; 5) constrained external validity due to who competes for oversubscribed programs; and 6) difficulties answering site-level questions with child-level randomization.  We offer potential solutions to these six challenges and concrete recommendations for the design of future lottery-based early education studies.

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Riley Acton, Cody Orr, Salem Rogers.

We study the effects of increased school spending in rural American school districts by leveraging the introduction and subsequent expansion of Wisconsin’s Sparsity Aid Program. We find that the program, which provides additional state funding to small and isolated school districts, increased spending in eligible districts by 2% annually and that districts primarily allocated funds to areas with low baseline budget shares. This increased spending has little effect on standardized test scores, but modestly increases college enrollment and completion for students with a low likelihood of attending or completing college.

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Martin Carnoy, Tatiana Khavenson.

The Revista del Centro de Estudios Educativos, numero 3, 1971 included an early Carnoy article on the economics of education: “Un enfoque de sistemas para evaluar la educación, ilustrado con datos de Puerto Rico.” The article used a unique data set that had student test scores, students’ family background characteristics, and information about teachers and other school inputs for about one-third of all students in Puerto Rican schools to estimate relations between teacher characteristics and student test scores controlling for students’ social class, gender, and whether the school was urban or rural. Such data sets were rare in the late 1960s, and so were attempts to understand how education systems worked to produce student learning outcomes—that is, to improve the quality of education.

There is a lot to criticize in the empirical analysis in that early article, but it does show that there was considerable concern about the quality of education in Latin America even back in 1971. That concern has grown greatly in the past fifty years as countries in the region have expanded their educational systems to provide an increasing proportion of youth with secondary schooling and higher education. With that expansion, there has been a shift in focus from policies concerned with access to schooling to policies concerned with improving the quality of schooling (UNESCO, 2005).

Two factors have contributed to this shift. The first is research claiming that quality of education, as measured by international test scores, is a better predictor of economic growth than the number of years of schooling in the labor force (Hanushek and Kimko, 2000; Hanushek and Woessman, 2008). The second is the increase in testing itself, both at the national and international levels. Student test results are being used increasingly to pressure national and local educational systems, schools, and individual teachers to have their students do better on the tests (OECD, 2013). League tables comparing schools, local school districts, regions, and nations against others are now a regular feature of educational politics in many countries of the world. To some extent, international test scores are becoming important enough to affect government legitimacy.

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Ashley C. Craig, David C. Martin.

Does relaxing strict school discipline improve student achievement, or lead to classroom disorder? We study a 2012 reform in New York City public middle schools that eliminated suspensions for non-violent, disorderly behavior, replacing them with less disruptive interventions. Using a difference-in-differences framework, we exploit the sharp timing of the reform and natural variation in its impact to measure the effect of reducing suspensions on student achievement. Math scores of students in more-affected schools rose by 0.05 standard deviations relative to other schools over the three years after the policy change. Reading scores rose by 0.03 standard deviations. Only a small portion of these aggregate benefits can be explained by the direct impact of eliminating suspensions on students who would have been suspended under the old policy. Instead, test score gains are associated with improvements in school culture, as measured by the quality of student-teacher relationships and perceptions of safety at school. We find no evidence of trade-offs between students, with students benefiting even if they were unlikely to be suspended themselves.

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Valerie Bostwick, Christopher Severen.

We provide evidence that graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws, originally intended to improve public safety, impact human capital accumulation. Many teens use automobiles to access both school and employment. Because school and work decisions are interrelated, the effects of automobile-specific mobility restrictions are ambiguous. Using a novel triple-difference research design, we find that restricting mobility significantly reduces high school dropout rates and teen employment. We develop a multiple discrete choice model that rationalizes unintended consequences and reveals that school and work are weak complements. Thus, improved educational outcomes reflect decreased access to leisure activities rather than reduced labor market access.

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