Leanna Stiefel

Institution: New York University

Leanna Stiefel, Professor of Economics at NYU Wagner studies education policy and school finance. Some of her current and recent research projects include: special education policy; costs of small high schools in New York City; the effects of student mobility on academic performance; the effects of housing instability on academic performance; and segregation, resource use, and achievement of immigrant school children. She is author of Statistical Analysis for Public and Non-Profit Managers (1990) and co-author of Measuring School Performance and Efficiency: Implications for Practice and Research (2005) as well as The Measurement of Equity in School Finance (1984), and her work appears in journals and edited books. She is past president of the American Education Finance Association, past member of the policy council of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), and a past governor on the New York State Education Finance Research Consortium. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, her AB degree with high honors from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and holds an Advanced Professional Certificate in Finance from New York University's Stern School of Business.




Leanna Stiefel, Syeda Sana Fatima, Joseph R. Cimpian, Kaitlyn G. O'Hagan.

There has been an explosion of research on racial disproportionality in special education. Some recent research shifts the focus from the role of student characteristics alone to inquire whether school context moderates findings (e.g., is a Black student less likely than a White student to receive special education services as the proportion of a school’s Black students increases?). We significantly extend this emerging literature using eight years of elementary student-and school-level data from NYC public schools, examining more school contextual moderators, expanding racial categories, and distinguishing between cross-sectional and over-time differences. We find many more moderators than previous research has identified and these school context factors appear to be particularly salient for the classification of Black students.

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Amy Ellen Schwartz, Bryant Gregory Hopkins, Leanna Stiefel.

In the forty plus years since passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education has grown in the number of students and amount spent on services. Despite this growth, the academic performance of students with disabilities (SWDs) remains troubling low compared to general education students (GENs). To some extent, these differences reflect persistent underlying disabilities, but they may also reflect ineffective special education services. Does special education improve academic outcomes for students with disabilities? There is surprisingly little evidence to guide policy and answer this question. This paper provides an answer for the largest disability group, students with learning disabilities (LDs), using rich data from New York City public schools. Because the majority of LDs are classified after school entry, we observe outcomes both before and after classification, allowing us to gauge impact using within-student pre/post comparisons and, ultimately, student fixed effects in regression models exploring impacts. We find that academic outcomes improve for LDs following classification into special education, and impacts are largest for those entering special education in earlier grades. Results are robust to alternative specifications and falsification tests bolster confidence in a causal interpretation. Differences in impacts by gender and race/ethnicity, grade of classification, and settings shed light on possible mechanisms. 

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