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Partisanship influenced learning modality after the pandemic’s onset, but it is unknown whether partisanship predicted other aspects of educational operations. We study the role of partisanship, race, markets, and public health in predicting a range of operations—from modality to family engagement to social-emotional support to teacher PD—throughout 2020-21 in the context of Virginia. Districts’ partisan makeup and racial composition were similarly predictive of in-person offerings throughout 2020-21 but partisanship was less predictive over time. District characteristics explained limited variation in other aspects of operations, though districts with larger private school sectors provided more supports. Results emphasize the role of partisanship, race, and markets in reopening but also suggest school operational decisions were less politicized than choice of modality.
We estimate the effect of universal free school meal access through the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) on child BMI. Through the CEP, schools with high percentages of students qualified for free or reduced-priced meals can offer freebreakfast and lunchto all students. With administrative data from a large school district in Georgia, we use student-level BMI measures from the FitnessGram to compare within-student outcomes before and after CEP implementation across eligible and non-eligible schools. We find one year of CEP exposure increased expected BMI percentile by about 0.085 standard deviations, equivalent to a nearly 1.88- pound weight increase for a student of average height. We also find that the program led to a small increase in the likelihood of overweight and limited evidence of a small decrease in the likelihood of underweight. We do not find that the program increased student obesity risk. Examining the effects of CEP on child BMI by grade suggests that the overall effect is largely driven by students in middle schools, highlighting potential heterogeneity in the program’s impact across grades. The findings of this paper are relevant for researchers and policymakers concerned with the effects of universal free school meals on student health.
We document that recent generations of elementary school teachers are significantly more effective in raising student test scores than those from earlier generations. Measuring teachers’ value-added for Black and white students separately, the improvements in teaching for Black students are significantly larger than those seen for white students. The race-specific improvements in teacher quality are driven by white teachers. Analyses of mechanisms suggest that changing teachers’ biases may be one potential channel. Our results suggest reason for optimism since these teacher quality differences should lead to improved student learning and a narrowing of the Black-white test score gap over time.
Congestion is a persistent and expensive problem, costing the nation collectively over $300 billion each year. Cities have generally attempted to address congestion using an unoriginal set of expensive strategies, like building new roads or expanding public transit, and many cities are considering implementing congestion pricing. Expanding school bus service may be a palatable solution because it provides a service instead of involving lengthy and costly construction or charging a new fee. School travel is also a sizeable portion of total daily tra c. Indeed, over 50 million children travel to and from school each day and their commutes account for about one-quarter of total daily commuter trips. School travel and school-provided transportation is generally the domain of school districts and not city governments and the school districts in most large cities are independent from city governments. This may lead to a coordination problem if school districts ignore congestion caused, or exacerbated by, school travel. To determine whether pupil transportation reduces congestion, I exploit the interaction of pupil transportation provision (variation in pupil transportation spending and school bus use within districts) and idiosyncratic, within-city and within-month variation in the percentage of weekdays that are instructional school days in a month. I build a rich, monthly, longitudinal data set for congestion, school days, and transportation policy for 51 cities from 2013 to 2019 and find congestion is significantly higher on school days and pupil transportation alleviates congestion caused by school children’s travel. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests cities should subsidize the additional spending needed by the school district to transport more students and lower congestion.
With a goal of contextualizing teacher job dissatisfaction during the first full school year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we contrast teachers’ experiences to the decade and a half leading up to the pandemic. We draw on nationally representative data from the Schools and Staffing Survey and National Teacher and Principal Survey from the 2003-04 to 2020-21 school years. Through descriptive and regression analysis, we show that (1) teacher dissatisfaction has gradually been increasing over time, but did not decrease sharply in the 2020-21 school year, (2) levels of dissatisfaction during the pandemic were not equal across subpopulations of teachers or over time, and (3) positive working conditions consistently predicted lower job dissatisfaction, including in the 2020-21 school year.
Teacher rating scales (TRS) are often used to make service eligibility decisions for exceptional learners. Although TRS are regularly used to identify student exceptionalism either as part of an informal nomination process or through behavioral rating scales, there is little research documenting the between-teacher variance in teacher ratings or the consequences of such rater dependence. To evaluate the possible benefits or disadvantages of using TRS as part of a gifted identification process, we examined the student-, teacher-, and school-level variance in TRS controlling for student ability and achievement to determine the unique information, consistency, and potential bias in TRS. Between 10% and 25% of a students’ TRS score can be attributed to the teacher doing the rating, and between-teacher standard deviations represent an effect size of one-third to one-half standard deviation unit. Our results suggest that TRS are not easily comparable across teachers, making it impossible to set a cut score for admission into a program (or for further screening) that functions equitably across teachers.
Research shows that teachers seek out jobs close to home, but previous studies have been unable to test whether proximity to home is related to retention in the teaching profession. We leverage a unique dataset from Teach For America (TFA) linking individuals’ preferred teaching locations, actual teaching locations, and years in teaching for 7 years after entering the profession. By controlling for a detailed set of background, preference, and teaching assignment variables through a matched fixed effects design, we find that individuals who were assigned to a TFA region in their home state taught, on average, for .15 years longer than those who were not assigned to teach in their home state. This effect is strongest for teachers of color and those from a low-income background. Being assigned to teach in one’s home state is associated with .36 more years in teaching for those from low-income backgrounds and .47 more years in teaching for teachers of color. Both sub-groups are approximately 8 percentage points more likely to stay in teaching for 7 or more years if assigned to their home state. Overall, this study provides evidence of a positive home state effect on teacher retention. Our results lend support for policies and programs that recruit from or nudge teachers toward teaching in their home states, particularly through alternative certification pathways, and as a means to increase teacher diversity.
Few interventions reduce inequality in reading achievement, let alone higher order thinking skills, among adolescents. We study “policy debate”—an extracurricular activity focused on improving middle and high schoolers’ critical thinking, argumentation, and policy analysis skills—in Boston schools serving large concentrations of economically-disadvantaged students of color. Student fixed effects estimates show debate had positive impacts on ELA test scores of 0.13 SD, equivalent to 68% of a full year of average 9th grade learning. Gains were concentrated on analytical more than rote subskills. We find no harm to math, attendance, or disciplinary records, and evidence of positive effects on high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment. Impacts were largest among students who were lowest achieving prior to joining debate.
Frames shape public opinion on policy issues, with implications for policy adoption and agenda-setting. What impact do common issue frames for racial equity in education have on voters’ support for racially equitable education policy? Across survey experiments with two independent representative polls of California voters, framing effects were moderated by voters’ prior policy preferences. Among respondents concerned with tax policy, a frame emphasizing the economic benefits of equity elicited higher priority for racial equity in education. Among respondents concerned with social justice, an “equal opportunity” frame elicited higher priority ratings. However, exploratory analyses showed frames only mattered when respondents held mixed policy preferences. Among respondents who (a) valued both tax policy and social justice issues, or who (b) valued neither, both frames were equally impactful.