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Multiple outcomes of education
This study provides the first large-scale quantitative exploration of mathematical language use in U.S. classrooms. Our approach employs natural language processing techniques to describe variation in the use of mathematical language in 1,657 fourth and fifth grade lessons by teachers and students in 317 classrooms in four districts over three years. Students’ exposure to mathematical language varies substantially across lessons and between teachers. Students whose teachers use more mathematical language are more likely to use it themselves, and they perform better on standardized tests. These findings suggest that teachers play a substantial role in students’ mathematical language use.
We investigated the effectiveness of a sustained and spiraled content literacy intervention that emphasizes building domain and topic knowledge schemas and vocabulary for elementary-grade students. The Model of Reading Engagement (MORE) intervention underscores thematic lessons that provide an intellectual structure for helping students connect new learning to a general schema in Grade 1 (animal survival), Grade 2 (scientific investigation of past events like dinosaur mass extinctions), and Grade 3 (scientific investigation of living systems). A total of 30 elementary schools (N = 2,870 students) were randomized to a treatment or control condition. In the treatment condition (i.e., full spiral curriculum), students participated in MORE content literacy lessons from Grades 1 to 3 during the school year and wide reading of thematically related informational texts in the summer following Grades 1 and 2. In the control condition (i.e., partial spiral curriculum), students participated in MORE lessons in only Grade 3. The Grade 3 lessons for both conditions were implemented online during the COVID-19 pandemic school year. Results reveal that treatment students outperformed control students on science vocabulary knowledge across all three grades. Furthermore, we found positive transfer effects on Grade 3 science reading (ES = .14), domain-general reading comprehension (ES = .11), and mathematics achievement (ES = .12). Treatment impacts were sustained at 14-month follow-up on Grade 4 reading comprehension (ES = .12) and mathematics achievement (ES = .16). Findings indicate that a content literacy intervention that spirals topics and vocabulary across grades can improve students’ long-term academic achievement outcomes.
We examine the impact of local labor market shocks and state unemployment insurance (UI) policies on student discipline in U.S. public schools. Analyzing school-level discipline data and firm-level layoffs in 23 states, we find that layoffs have little effect on discipline rates overall. However, effects differ across the UI benefit distribution. At the lowest benefit level ($265/week), a mass layoff increases out-of-school suspensions by 4.5%, with effects dissipating as UI benefits increase. Effects are consistently largest for Black students - especially in predominantly White schools - resulting in increased racial disproportionality in school discipline following layoffs in low-UI states.
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.
Tutoring has emerged as an especially promising strategy for supporting students academically. This study synthesizes 33 articles on the implementation of tutoring, defined as one-to-one or small-group instruction in which a human tutor supports students grades K-12 in an academic subject, to better understand the facilitators and barriers to program success. We find that policies influenced tutoring implementation through the allocation of federal funding and stipulation of program design. Tutoring program launch has often been facilitated by strategic relationships between schools and external tutoring providers and strengthened by transparent assessments of program quality and effectiveness. Successful implementation hinged on the support of school leaders with the power to direct school funding, space, and time. Tutoring setting and schedule, recruitment and training, and curriculum influenced whether students are able to access quality tutoring and instruction. Ultimately, evidence suggests that tutoring was most meaningful when tutors fostered positive student-tutor relationships which they drew upon to target instruction toward students’ strengths and needs.
In this study, we examine an at-scale effort to encourage the formation of career pathways in California, with the goal of estimating the initiative’s causal effects on community college enrollment. We leverage a discontinuous assignment rule used to award grant funds to obtain credibly causal estimates of an ambitious $500 million effort to expand and establish career and technical education pathways between K-12 and community colleges. The competitive grant application process used a standardized rubric, and those receiving a score above a predetermined threshold were awarded funding (i.e., treatment group) while those just below received no funding (i.e., control group), allowing for a regression discontinuity (RD) design. We found that successful grantees did not experience overall enrollment increases in postsecondary partnerships; however, there were enrollment increases of 13.5 percent to 14.8 percent in CTE health sector courses, the program targeted the most for expansion. Manufacturing, and information communication technology, the other programs with the most expanded offerings, experienced no increases in postsecondary enrollment. The enrollment increases for the health sector were concentrated amongst female students in line with earlier findings by Bonilla (2020) documenting reductions in high school dropout rates for female students. These findings suggest that partnerships between K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions may be a viable avenue for increasing alignment between enrollment and high- growth sectors.
We study the distributional effects of remote learning. Our approach combines newly collected data on parental preferences with administrative data from Los Angeles. The preference data allow us to account for selection into remote learning while also studying selection patterns and treatment effect heterogeneity. We find a negative average effect of remote learning on reading (–0.14σ) and math (–0.17σ). Notably, we find evidence of positive learning effects for children whose parents have the strongest demand for remote learning. Our results suggest an important subset of students who currently sort into post-pandemic remote learning benefit from expanded choice.
We use linked individual-level data on school enrollment, physician services received, and prescription medications to measure the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated disruptions on mental health treatment received by adolescents in British Columbia. We also investigate whether these effects are mediated by socioeconomic status and schooling mode. The results suggest substantial increases for non-Indigenous English home language girls in treatment for depression/anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders and other mental health conditions. Indigenous and non-English home language girls also show increases in treatment for depression/anxiety, and Indigenous girls show increases in treatment for ADHD. In contrast, boys show no change or even reductions in treatment for most mental health conditions. These effects vary somewhat by socioeconomic status, but we find no evidence that they vary substantially by schooling mode.
I estimate the effect of attending an associate's degree in nursing program on nursing licensure. I use student-level academic data for all California community college students, matched to public records on all nursing licenses earned in the state. I produce causal estimates using random variation from admissions lotteries at a large nursing program. Enrolling in the program increases the probability of having an active nursing license by 59 percentage points within three years. By seven years the effect is smaller and not statistically significant. I estimate the value of a nursing license as approximately $5,000-$6,000 per year.
Little is known about the impact of peer personality on human capital formation. This paper studies the peer effect of persistence, a personality trait that reflects perseverance when facing challenges and setbacks, on student achievement. Exploiting student-classroom random assignments in middle schools in China, I find having more persistent peers improves in student achievement. The effects are prominent in students with high and medium baseline persistence. I find three mechanisms: (i) students’ own persistence and self-disciplined behaviors increase; (ii) teachers become more responsible/patient and spend more time on teaching preparation; and (iii) endogenous friendship networks consisting of more academically successful peers and fewer disruptive peers develop, particularly among students who share with similar levels of persistence.