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Program and policy effects

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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Di Xu, Kelli A. Bird, Michael Cooper, Benjamin L. Castleman.

Many public workforce training programs lead to industry-recognized, third-party awarded credentials, but little research has been conducted on the economic benefits of these credentials in the labor market. This paper provides quasi-experimental evidence on the labor market returns to industry-recognized credentials connected to community college workforce noncredit training programs. Based on novel data that includes approximately 24,000 working-age adults enrolled in noncredit workforce training programs at the Virginia Community College System, we employ a comparative individual-level fixed effects model to estimate earnings premia net of fixed attributes and earnings time-trends. Our results indicate that earning an industry-recognized credential, on average, increases quarterly earnings by approximately $1,000 and the probability of being employed by 2.4 percentage points, although there is substantial heterogeneity in economic return across different program fields. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the earnings gains associated with the industry credential obtained through the noncredit workforce training would exceed program costs in just over half a year on average.

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Michael Bates, Andrew C. Johnston.

Why do employers offer pensions? We empirically explore two theoretical rationales, namely that pensions may improve worker effort and worker selection. We examine these hypotheses using administrative measures on effort and output in public schools around the pension-eligibility notch. When workers cross the notch their effective compensation falls significantly, but we observe no reduction in worker effort and output. This implies that pension payments do not increase effort. As for selection, we find that pensions retain low-value-added and high-value-added workers at the same rate, suggesting pensions have little or no influence on selection.

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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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Jeonghyeok Kim.

Each year, over a thousand public schools in the US close due to declining enrollments and chronic low performance, displacing hundreds of thousands of students. Using Texas administrative data and empirical strategies that use within-student across-time and within-school across-cohort variation, I explore the impact of school closures on students' educational and labor market outcomes. The findings indicate that experiencing school closures results in disruptions in both test scores and behavior. While the drop in test scores is recovered within three years, behavioral issues persist. This study further finds decreases in post-secondary education attainment, employment, and earnings at ages 25–27. These impacts are particularly pronounced among students in secondary education, Hispanic students, and those from originally low-performing schools and economically disadvantaged families.

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Ariana Audisio, Rebecca Taylor-Perryman, Tim Tasker, Matthew P. Steinberg.

Teachers are the most important school-specific factor in student learning. Yet, little evidence exists linking teacher professional development programs and the strategies or activities that comprise them to student achievement. In this paper, we examine a fellowship model for professional development designed and implemented by Leading Educators, a national nonprofit organization that aims to bridge research and practice to improve instructional quality and accelerate learning across school systems. During the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, Leading Educators conducted its fellowship program for two cohorts of instructional leaders, such as department chairs, mentor teachers, instructional coaches, and assistant principals, to provide these educators ongoing, collaborative, job-embedded professional development and to improve student achievement. Relying on quasi-experimental methods, we find that a school’s participation in the fellowship program significantly increased student proficiency rates in English language arts and math on state achievement exams. The positive impact was concentrated in the first cohort and in just one of three regions, and approximately 80 percent of treated schools were charters. Student achievement benefitted from a more sustained duration of participation in the fellowship program, varied depending on the share of a school’s educators who participated in the fellowship, and differed based on whether fellows independently selected into the program or were appointed to participate by their school leaders. Taken together, findings from this paper should inform professional learning organizations, schools, and policymakers on the design, implementation, and impact of educator professional development.

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Carly D. Robinson, Cynthia Pollard, Sarah Novicoff, Sara White, Susanna Loeb.

In-person tutoring has been shown to improve academic achievement. Though less well-researched, virtual tutoring has also shown a positive effect on achievement but has only been studied in grade five or above. We present findings from the first randomized controlled trial of virtual tutoring for young children (grades K-2). Students were assigned to 1:1 tutoring, 2:1 tutoring, or a control group. Assignment to any virtual tutoring increased early literacy skills by 0.05-0.08 SD with the largest effects for 1:1 tutoring (0.07-0.12 SD). Students initially scoring well below benchmark and first graders experienced the largest gains from 1:1 tutoring (0.15 and 0.20 SD, respectively). Effects are smaller than typically seen from in-person early literacy tutoring programs but still positive and statistically significant, suggesting promise particularly in communities with in-person staffing challenges.

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