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Program and policy effects

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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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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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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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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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Kristen Shure, Zach Weingarten.

Many decentralized matching markets experience high rates of instability due to information frictions. This paper analyzes these frictions in a particularly unstable U.S. market, the labor market for first-year school teachers. We develop and estimate a dynamic, partial equilibrium model of labor mobility that incorporates non-pecuniary information frictions for school climate and teacher workload. In terms of reducing turnover, a policy that improves information outperforms each alternative considered, including targeted wage premiums at hard-to-staff schools, large retention bonuses, and relaxed tenure requirements. Replicating the gains made through information revelation requires retention bonuses valued at 35% of teachers’ current salaries.

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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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Steven Michael Carlo.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested the civic, or citizenship knowledge of students across the nation at irregular intervals since its very inception. Despite advancements in reading and mathematics, evidenced by results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), civics proficiency has remained consistently low, which raises concerns among educators and policymakers. This study attempts to provide those educators and policymakers with state-level predictions, not currently provided for the civics assessment. This research addresses this gap in state-level civics education data by applying multilevel regression with poststratification (MRP) to NAEP's nationally representative civics scores, yielding state-specific estimates that account for student demographics. A historical analysis of NAEP's development underscores its significance in national education and highlights the challenges of transitioning to state-level reporting, particularly for civics, which lacks state-level generalizability. Furthermore, this paper evaluates NAEP's frameworks, questioning their alignment with civics education's evolving needs, and investigates the presence of opportunity gaps in civics knowledge across gender and racial/ethnic lines. By comparing MRP estimates with published NAEP results, the study validates the method's credibility and emphasizes the potential of MRP in educational research. The findings reveal persistent racial/ethnic disparities in civic knowledge, with profound implications for civics instruction and policy. The research concludes by stressing the necessity for state-specific data to inform education policy and practice, advocating for teaching methods that enhance civic understanding and engagement, and suggesting future research directions to address the uncovered disparities.

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Douglas N. Harris, Jonathan Mills.

We provide evidence about college financial aid from an eight-year randomized trial where high school ninth graders received a $12,000 merit-based grant offer. The program was designed to be free of tuition/fees at community colleges and substantially lower the cost of four-year colleges. During high school, it increased students’ college expectations and low-cost effort, but not higher-cost effort, such as class attendance. The program likely increased two-year college graduation, perhaps because of the free college framing, but did not affect overall college entry, graduation, employment, incarceration, or teen pregnancy. Additional analysis helps explain these modest effects and variation in results across prior studies.

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Maxwell J. Cook, Cory Koedel, Michael Reda.

We estimate the education and earnings returns to enrolling in technical two-year degree programs at community colleges in Missouri. A unique feature of the Missouri context is the presence of a highly regarded, nationally ranked technical college: State Technical College of Missouri (State Tech). We find that enrolling in a technical program in Missouri increases the likelihood of associate degree attainment and post-enrollment earnings, but that the positive effects statewide are driven largely by students who attend State Tech. These findings demonstrate the potential for a high-performing community college to change students’ education and labor market trajectories. At the same time, they exemplify the potential for substantial institutional heterogeneity in the returns to postsecondary education.

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Matthew A. Kraft, Melissa Arnold Lyon.

We examine the state of the U.S. K-12 teaching profession over the last half century by compiling nationally representative time-series data on four interrelated constructs: occupational prestige, interest among students, the number of individuals preparing for entry, and on-the-job satisfaction. We find a consistent and dynamic pattern across every measure: a rapid decline in the 1970s, a swift rise in the 1980s extending into the mid 1990s, relative stability, and then a sustained decline beginning around 2010. The current state of the teaching profession is at or near its lowest levels in 50 years. We identify and explore a range of hypotheses that might explain these historical patterns including economic and sociopolitical factors, education policies, and school environments.

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