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Race, ethnicity and culture

Jing Liu, Michael S. Hayes, Seth Gershenson.
We use novel data on disciplinary referrals, including those that do not lead to suspensions, to better understand the origins of racial disparities in exclusionary discipline. We find significant differences between Black and white students in both referral rates and the rate at which referrals convert to suspensions. An infraction fixed-effects research design that compares the disciplinary outcomes of white and non-white students who were involved in the same multi-student incident identifies systematic racial biases in sentencing decisions. On both the intensive and extensive margins, Black and Hispanic students receive harsher sentences than their white co-conspirators. This result is driven by high school infractions and mainly applies to “more severe” infractions that involve fights or drugs. Reducing racial disparities in exclusionary discipline will require addressing underlying gaps in disciplinary referrals and the systematic biases that appear in the adjudication process.

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Michael Gottfried, Michael Little, Arya Ansari.

The benefits of student-teacher ethnoracial matching on student outcomes—ranging from academic achievement to postsecondary attainment—are well documented. Yet, we know far less about the role of student-teacher ethnoracial matching in the earliest grades school and on less about effects on non-academic outcomes. The purpose of this study is to advance our understanding of student-teacher ethnoracial matching in early elementary school by exploring two executive function outcomes – working memory and cognitive flexibility. Drawing on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten Class of 2011, our findings suggest student-teacher ethnoracial matching benefits on working memory skills, though not cognitive flexibility. Observed associations for working memory are of similar size to those for academic achievement outcomes and are largest for Black and Latinx students.

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Benjamin W. Arold, Ludger Woessmann, Larissa Zierow.

We study whether compulsory religious education in schools affects students' religiosity as adults. We exploit the staggered termination of compulsory religious education across German states in models with state and cohort fixed effects. Using three different datasets, we find that abolishing compulsory religious education significantly reduced religiosity of affected students in adulthood. It also reduced the religious actions of personal prayer, church-going, and church membership. Beyond religious attitudes, the reform led to more equalized gender roles, fewer marriages and children, and higher labor-market participation and earnings. The reform did not affect ethical and political values or non-religious school outcomes.

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Meghan Comstock, Kenneth A. Shores, Camila Polanco, Erica Litke, Kirsten Lee Hill, Laura M. Desimone.

As states and districts expand their goals for equitable mathematics instruction to focus on cultural responsiveness and rigor, it is critical to understand how teachers integrate multiple teaching approaches. Drawing on survey data from a larger study of professional learning, we use mixture modeling to identify seven unique ways that middle school mathematics teachers integrate ambitious, traditional, and culturally responsive (CR) mathematics instruction. The resulting typology is driven almost exclusively by variation in CR teaching. About half of teachers reported rarely engaging in CR teaching. Teachers who emphasized CR teaching tended to be teachers of color and have high CR teaching self-efficacy. Findings suggest that tailoring teacher development to how teachers blend multiple approaches may best support equitable mathematics instruction.

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Zachary Bleemer, Aashish Mehta.

Underrepresented minority (URM) college students have been steadily earning degrees in relatively less-lucrative fields of study since the mid-1990s. A decomposition reveals that this widening gap is principally explained by rising stratification at public research universities, many of which increasingly enforce GPA restriction policies that prohibit students with poor introductory grades from declaring popular majors. We investigate these GPA restrictions by constructing a novel 50-year dataset covering four public research universities' student transcripts and employing a staggered difference-in-difference design around the implementation of 29 restrictions. Restricted majors’ average URM enrollment share falls by 20 percent, which matches observational patterns and can be explained by URM students’ poorer average pre-college academic preparation. Using first-term course enrollments to identify students who intend to earn restricted majors, we find that major restrictions disproportionately lead URM students from their intended major toward less-lucrative fields, driving within-institution ethnic stratification and likely exacerbating labor market disparities.

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David Blazar, Francisco Lagos.

Studies consistently show benefits of teacher-student race/ethnicity matching, with some suggestion that these effects are driven by role modeling. We explore this hypothesis by examining effects on the educational outcomes of Black and Hispanic students for exposure to same-race/ethnicity professional staff (e.g., administrators, counselors), with whom students interact less frequently and directly than with their teachers. Exploiting within-student and within-school variation in statewide data from Maryland, we find that increased shares of same-race/ethnicity professionals results in increased test scores, and decreased suspensions and absences for Black and Hispanic students. We also find that exposure to non-White school staff leads to improved outcomes for these students, whether or not they are from the same racial/ethnic group.

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David Blazar.

There is broad consensus across academic disciplines that access to same-race/ethnicity teachers is a critical resource for supporting the educational experiences and outcomes of Black, Hispanic, and other students of color. While theoretical and qualitative lines of inquiry further describe a set of teacher mindsets and practices aligned to “culturally responsive teaching” as likely mechanisms for these effects, to date there is no causal evidence on this topic. In experimental data where upper-elementary teachers were randomly assigned to classes, I find large effects upwards of 0.45 standard deviations of teachers of color on the short- and longer-term social-emotional, academic, and behavioral outcomes of their students. These average effects are explained in part by teachers’ growth mindset beliefs that student intelligence is malleable rather than fixed, interpersonal relationships with students and families, time spent planning for and differentiating instruction for individual students’ needs, and the extent to which teachers lead well-organized classrooms in which student (mis)behavior is addressed productively without creating a negative classroom climate.

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David Blazar, Doug McNamara, Genine Blue.

While teacher coaching is an attractive alternative to one-size-fits-all professional development, the need for a large number of highly skilled coaches raises potential challenges for scalability and sustainability. Collaborating with a national teacher training organization, our study uses administrative records to estimate the degree of heterogeneity in coach effectiveness at improving teachers’ instructional practice, and specific characteristics of coaches that explain these differences. We find substantial variability in effectiveness across individual coaches. The magnitude of the coach-level variation (0.2 to 0.35 standard deviations) is close to the full effect of coaching programs, as identified in other research. We also find that coach-teacher race/ethnicity-matching predicts changes in teacher practice, suggesting that the relational component of coaching is key to success.

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Camila Morales.

Policy debate on refugee resettlement focuses on perceived adverse effects on local communities, with sparse credible evidence to ascertain its impact. This paper examines whether attending school with refugees affects the academic outcomes of non-refugee students. Leveraging variation in the share of refugees within schools and across grades, I find that increasing the share of grade-level refugees by 1 pp results in a 0.01 sd increase in average math scores. While I find no effect on average English Language Arts scores, using nonlinear-in-means specifications I estimate negative spillovers in ELA performance among low-achieving students and positive spillovers among high-achieving students.

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Todd Pugatch, Elizabeth Schroeder.

We assess whether a light-touch intervention can increase socioeconomic and racial diversity in undergraduate Economics. We randomly assigned over 2,200 students a message with basic information about the Economics major; the basic message combined with an emphasis on the rewarding careers or financial returns associated with the major; or no message. Messages increased the proportion of first generation or underrepresented minority (URM) students majoring in Economics by five percentage points. This effect size was sufficient to reverse the gap in Economics majors between first generation/URM students and students not in these groups. Effect sizes were larger and more precise for better-performing students and first generation students. Extrapolating to the full sample, the treatment would double the proportion of first generation and underrepresented minority students majoring in Economics.

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