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Program and policy effects

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Matthew A. Kraft, Virginia S. Lovison.

Budget constraints and limited supplies of local tutors have caused many K-12 school districts to pivot from individual tutoring in-person toward small-group tutoring online to expand access to personalized instruction. We conduct a field experiment to explore the effect of increasing student-tutor ratios on middle school students’ math achievement and growth during an online tutoring program. We leverage a novel feature of the program where tutors often taught individual and small-group tutoring sessions, allowing them to directly compare their experiences across these settings. Both experimental estimates and tutor survey responses suggest 1:1 tutoring is more effective than 3:1 tutoring online. Tutoring small groups in an online format presents additional challenges for personalizing instruction, developing relationships, fostering participation, and managing student behavior.

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Jilli Jung, Andrew Fenelon.

A later school start time policy has been recommended as a solution to adolescents’ sleep deprivation. We estimated the impacts of later school start times on adolescents’ sleep and substance use by leveraging a quasi-experiment in which school start time was delayed in some regions in South Korea. A later school start time policy was implemented in 2014 and 2015, which delayed school start times approximately 30-90 minutes. We applied difference-in-differences and event-study designs to longitudinal data on a nationally-representative cohort of adolescents from 2010 to 2015, which annually tracked sleep and substance use of 1,133 adolescents from grade 7 through grade 12. The adoption of a later school start time policy was initially associated with a 19-minute increase in sleep duration (95% CI, 5.52 to 32.04), driven by a delayed wake time and consistent bedtime. The policy was also associated with statistically significant reductions in monthly smoking and drinking frequencies. However, approximately a year after implementation, the observed increase in sleep duration shrank to 7-minute (95% CI, -12.60 to 25.86) and became statistically nonsignificant. Similarly, the observed reduction in smoking and drinking was attenuated a year after. Our findings suggest that policies that increase sleep in adolescents may have positive effects on health behaviors, but additional efforts may be required to sustain positive impacts over time. Physicians and education and health policymakers should consider the long-term effects of later school start times on adolescent health and well-being.

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Gema Zamarro, Andrew Camp, Josh McGee, Taylor Wilson, Miranda Vernon.

Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers is a pressing policy concern. Increasing teacher salaries and creating more attractive compensation packages are often proposed as a potential solution. Signed into law in March 2023, the LEARNS Act increased Arkansas's minimum teacher salary from $36,000 to $50,000, guaranteed all teachers a minimum raise of $2,000, and added flexibility allowing school districts to deviate from seniority-based traditional salary schedules. To study school districts’ adjustments to the new legislation, we collected information about districts' teacher compensation policies one year before and the first year of implementation. We also integrated this data with teachers' administrative records to study patterns of teacher retention and mobility. Our results reveal a more equitable distribution of starting teacher salaries across districts, with minimal variation. The LEARNS Act notably increased funding for rural and high-poverty districts, mitigating the negative association between starting salaries and district poverty rates. However, the initial effects on teacher retention and mobility were modest. While some positive trends emerged, such as reduced probabilities of teachers transitioning to non-instructional roles and increased new teacher placement in geographic areas of shortage, broader impacts on retention and mobility were limited in the first year of implementation.

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Justin C. Ortagus, Hope Allchin, Benjamin Skinner, Melvin Tanner, Isaac McFarlin.

Most students who begin at a community college do not complete their desired credential. Many former students fail to graduate due to various barriers rather than their academic performance. To encourage previously successful non-completers to re-enroll and eventually graduate, a growing number of community colleges have implemented re-enrollment campaigns focused on former students who have already made substantial progress toward graduation. In this study, we randomly assigned over 27,000 former community college students to a control group, “information-only” treatment group, or “information and one-course waiver” treatment group to examine whether re-enrollment campaigns can improve their likelihood of long-term persistence and credential completion. Although we showed in earlier work that the “information and one-course waiver” treatment had a positive impact on former students’ likelihood of re-enrollment, our findings reveal the re-enrollment intervention has no effect on students’ likelihood of long-term persistence or credential completion for the pooled sample or any subgroup of interest, including low-income students, racially minoritized students, or adult students. Simply put, this particular re-enrollment intervention including one-time, one-course tuition waivers increased former students’ likelihood of re-enrollment but was not an effective lever to increase long-term academic outcomes among previously successful community college students who departed early without earning a credential.

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Andrew Camp.

The four-day school week is a school calendar that has become increasingly common following the COVID-19 pandemic. Proponents of the calendar often claim that offering teachers a regular 3-day weekend will help schools better retain existing teachers and recruit new teachers to their district without incurring additional costs due to higher salaries or other pecuniary benefits. However, there is scant empirical evidence assessing these claims. I use difference-in-differences and synthetic difference-in-differences models to assess the impact of four-day school week calendars on teacher retention and teacher quality in Arkansas. I find evidence that the calendar may help retain teachers who otherwise would have moved to another school and suggestive evidence that retention in non-adopting schools may be harmed by the four-day school week adoption in nearby districts. Results examining changes in teacher quality are inconclusive. These results have significant implications given the rapid growth in four-day school week calendars in recent years.

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Kaitlyn G. O'Hagan, Zitsi Mirakhur.

There is limited empirical evidence about educational interventions for students experiencing homelessness, who experience distinct disadvantages compared to their low-income peers. We explore how two school staffing interventions in New York City shaped the attendance outcomes of students experiencing homelessness using administrative records from 2013-2022 and a difference-in-differences design. We find suggestive evidence that one intervention, which placed social workers in schools, increased the average attendance rates of students in shelter by 1-3 percentage points after 3-5 years. We discuss implications for the importance of non-instructional school staff and strategies to serve homeless students.

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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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David Blazar, Wenjing Gao, Seth Gershenson, Ramon Goings, Francisco Lagos.

Local teacher recruitment through “grow-your-own” programs is a prominent strategy to address workforce shortages and ensure that incoming teachers resemble, understand, and have strong connections to their communities. We exploit the staggered rollout of the Teacher Academy of Maryland career and technical education certificate program across public high schools, finding that exposed students were more likely to become teachers by 0.6 percentage points (pp), or 47%. Effects are concentrated among White girls (1.4pp/39%) and Black girls (0.7pp/80%). We also identify positive impacts on wages (5% on average/18% for Black girls), countering a prevailing narrative that teaching leaves one worse off financially relative to other labor market opportunities.

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Eric S. Taylor.

When employees expect evaluation and performance incentives will continue (or begin) in the future, the potential future rewards create an incentive to invest in relevant skills today. Because skills benefit job performance, the effects of evaluation can persist after the rewards end or even anticipate the start of rewards. I provide empirical evidence of these dynamics from a quasi-experiment in Tennessee schools. New performance measures improve teachers’ value-added contributions to student achievement. But improvements are twice as large when the teacher also expects future rewards linked to future scores. Value-added remains at the now higher level after performance incentives end.

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Irma Arteaga, Andreas de Barros, Alejandro J. Ganimian.

Home-visitation programs have improved child development in low- and middle-income countries, but they are costly to scale due to their reliance on trained workers. We evaluated an inexpensive and low-tech alternative with 2,433 caregivers of children aged 6 to 30 months served by 250 public childcare centers in Uttarakhand, India: automated phone calls offering parenting advice. The intervention was implemented largely as intended, with more than two-thirds of caregivers completing at least 10 calls. Yet, counter to expectations, it had negative but statistically insignificant effects on caregivers’ knowledge and interactions with their children, reduced their self-efficacy (by 0.11 standard deviations), and increased their anxiety (by 0.10 standard deviations). Consistent with this pattern, it had precisely estimated null effects on children’s development and language. An analysis of program materials suggests four reasons why the program may not have had the desired effects.

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