Sarah Komisarow

Institution: Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University


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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Lisa Barrow, Sarah Komisarow, Lauren Sartain.

School districts across the U.S. have adopted funding policies designed to distribute resources more equitably across schools. However, schools are also increasing external fundraising efforts to supplement district budget allocations. We document the interaction between funding policies and fundraising efforts in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). We find that adoption of a weighted-student funding policy successfully reallocated more dollars to schools with high shares of students eligible for free/reduced-price (FRL) lunch, creating a policy-induced per-pupil expenditure gap. Further, almost all schools raised external funds over the study period with most dollars raised concentrated in schools serving relatively affluent populations. We estimate that external fundraising offset the policy-induced per- pupil expenditure gap between schools enrolling the lowest and highest shares of FRL-eligible students by 26-39 percent. Other districts have attempted to reallocate fundraised dollars to all schools; such a policy in CPS would have little impact on most schools’ budgets.

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Sarah Komisarow, Emily Pakhtigian.

In this paper we study the effects of three large, nearly-simultaneous coal-fired power plant closures on school absences in Chicago. We find that the closures resulted in a 7 percent reduction in absenteeism in nearby schools relative to those farther away following the closures. For the typical elementary school in our sample, this translates into around 372 fewer absence-days per year in the aggregate, or around 0.71 fewer annual absences per student. We find that reductions in absences were larger in schools where pre-closure exposure to coal-fired power plants was more intense: namely, schools with low levels of air conditioning, schools more frequently in the wind path of the plants, and non-magnet (i.e., neighborhood) schools where students were more likely to live nearby. To explore potential mechanisms responsible for these absence reductions we investigate the effects of the closures on housing values and children’s respiratory health. We do not find statistical evidence of endogenous migration into neighborhoods near the coal-fired power plants following the closures but do find declines in emergency department visits for asthma-related conditions among school-age children.

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Sarah Komisarow.

StudentU is a comprehensive program that provides education, nutrition, and social support services to disadvantaged students outside of the regular school day. In this paper I investigate the effects of this multi-year program on the early high school outcomes of participating students by exploiting data from oversubscribed admissions lotteries. I estimate that lottery winners who entered the comprehensive program with low baseline achievement earned more course credits (0.82 credits), achieved higher grade point averages (0.37 grade points), and were less likely to be suspended (17.1 percentage points) during ninth grade than their lottery loser counterparts. Investigation of candidate channels indicates that increased student effort and improved behavior in school are likely mechanisms. Using an index of early high school outcomes, I predict that lottery winners are around 4 percentage points more likely to graduate from high school than lottery losers (5 percent effect). These results suggest that comprehensive services delivered outside of the regular school day have the potential to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged students.

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Robert Gonzalez, Sarah Komisarow.

In this paper we study the impact on student absenteeism of a large school-based community crime monitoring program that employed local community members to monitor and report crime on designated city blocks during students’ travel to and from school. We find that the program resulted in a 0.78 percentage point reduction in the school-level absence rate (11 percent effect). We explore two potential channels to explain this: we find improvements “outside of the school walls” in the form of reduced crime near treated schools and “inside of the school walls” in the form of reduced incidents of serious student misconduct.

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