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The recent spike in book challenges has put school libraries at the center of heated political debates. I investigate the relationship between local politics and school library collections using data on books with controversial content in 6,631 public school libraries. Libraries in conservative areas have fewer titles with LGBTQ+, race/racism, or abortion content and more Christian fiction and discontinued Dr. Seuss titles. This is true even though most libraries have at least some controversial content. I also find that state laws that restrict curricular content are negatively related to some kinds of controversial books. Finally, I present descriptive short-term evidence that book challenges in the 2021-22 school year have had “chilling effects” on the acquisition of new LGBTQ+ titles.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted teacher candidates’ capacity to complete licensure requirements. In response, many states temporarily reduced professional entry requirements to prevent a pandemic-induced teacher shortage. Using mixed methods, we examine the role of the emergency teaching license in Massachusetts, which provided an opportunity for individuals to enter the public school teacher workforce with only a bachelor’s degree. Our results show that emergency licenses increased the supply of teachers in two ways by: 1) providing an entry point for individuals who previously wanted to become teachers but could not meet traditional licensure requirements and 2) expanding the pool of individuals interested in the profession. Among those teachers hired with an emergency license, we find that they were substantially more ethnoracially diverse than their peers with traditional licenses, and they overwhelmingly intend to obtain permanent licensure and remain in the profession. These results suggest that rethinking initial entry requirements may be an effective policy tool to increase the supply of teachers, particularly among teachers of color.
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.
News media plays a crucial role in the student loan policy ecosystem by influencing how policymakers and the public understand the “problem” of student loans. Prior research emphasizes the causal impact of the media on the social construction of policy issues and the lack of knowledge about the authors of news articles. Theory also suggests that it is more difficult for new information to reach people in the core of a social network given their insular relationships. Therefore, we used social network analysis to investigate the college backgrounds for authors of student loan articles published in eight prominent newspapers between 2006 and 2021. We found evidence of a stark status hierarchy among the colleges attended (e.g., over half of the authors attended an Ivy Plus or Public Flagship institution). Our findings also identified a negative relationship between that hierarchy and an innovative practice, the use of racialized language in student loan news articles. We discuss how this status hierarchy might explain current patterns of racialized language in student loan policy and the implications of this relationship for the intersection of status and novel practices.
Explaining the productivity paradox—the phenomenon where an introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) does not lead to improvements in labor productivity—is difficult, as changes in technology often coincide with adjustments to working hours and substitution of labor. I conduct a cluster-randomized trial in India to investigate the effects of a program that provides teachers with continuous training and materials, encouraging them to blend their instruction with high-quality videos. Teaching hours, teacher-to-student assignments, and the curriculum are held constant. Eleven months after its launch, I document negative effects on student learning in grades 9 and 10 in mathematics, and no effects in science. I also find detrimental effects on instructional quality, instructional practices, and student perceptions and attitudes towards mathematics and science. These findings suggest adjustment costs can serve as one explanation for the paradox.
In response to widening achievement gaps and increased demand for post-secondary education, local and federal governments across the US have enacted policies that have boosted high school graduation rates without an equivalent rise in student achievement, suggesting a decline in academic standards. To the extent that academic standards can shape effort decisions, these trends can have important implications for human capital accumulation. This paper provides both theoretical and empirical evidence of the causal effect of academic standards on student effort and achievement. We develop a theoretical model of endogenous student effort that depends on grading policies, finding that designs that do not account for either the spread of student ability or the magnitude of leniency can increase achievement gaps. Empirically, under a research design that leverages variation from a statewide grading policy and school entry rules, we find that an increase in leniency mechanically increased student GPA without increasing student achievement. At the same time, this policy induced students to increase their school absences. We uncover stark heterogeneity of effects across student ability, with the gains in GPA driven entirely by high ability students and the reductions in attendance driven entirely by low ability students. These differences in responses compound across high school and ultimately widen long-term achievement gaps as measured by ACT scores.
Novice teachers improve substantially in their first years on the job, but we know remarkably little about the nature of this skill development. Using data from Tennessee, we leverage a feature of the classroom observation protocol that asks school administrators to identify an item on which the teacher should focus their improvement efforts. This “area of refinement” overcomes a key measurement challenge endemic to inferring from classroom observation scores the development of specific teaching skills. We show that administrators disproportionately identify two teaching skills when observing novice teachers: classroom management and presenting content. Struggling with classroom management, in particular, is linked to high rates of novice teacher attrition. Among those who remain, we observe subsequent improvement in these skills.
This study contributes to the science of teaching reading by illustrating how a ubiquitous classroom practice – read alouds – can be enhanced by fostering teacher language practices that support students’ ability to read for understanding. This experimental study examines whether and to what extent providing structured teacher read aloud supplements in a social studies read aloud can allow students to leverage a familiar science schema and thereby positively impact reading comprehension outcomes. Treatment students received a single social studies read-aloud on the story of Apollo 11 with structured teacher read aloud supplements while control students received the same read-aloud story but without structured supplements. Effect sizes from hierarchical linear models indicated that students in the treatment condition significantly outperformed students in the control condition on four measures of domain-specific reading comprehension. Further exploratory analyses using structural equation modeling examined the extent that teacher language mediated the treatment effect. Results indicated that teachers going above and beyond the intervention script explained 67 percent of the treatment effect. Structured supplements for read alouds can help students see important connections between schemas, which ultimately aids in reading comprehension.
School board candidates supported by local teachers' unions overwhelmingly win and we examine the causes and consequences of the "teachers' union premium" in these elections. First, we show that union endorsement information increases voter support. Although the magnitude of this effect varies across ideological and partisan subgroups, an endorsement never hurts a candidate's prospects among any major segment of the electorate. Second, we benchmark the size of the endorsement premium to other well-known determinants of vote-choice in local elections. Perhaps surprisingly, we show the endorsement effect can be as large as the impact of shared partisanship, and substantially larger than the boost from endorsements provided by other stakeholders. Finally, examining real-world endorsement decisions, we find that union support for incumbents hinges on self-interested pecuniary considerations and is unaffected by performance in improving student academic outcomes. The divergence between what endorsements mean and how voters interpret them have troubling normative democratic implications.