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Multiple outcomes of education

Haibin Jiang, Noman Khanani, Yan R. Leigh, Mary E. Walsh.

School mobility, compounding socioeconomic inequities, can undermine academic achievement and behavior, particularly during middle school years. This study investigates the effect of a school-based integrated student support intervention – City Connects – on the achievement and behavior of middle school students who experience school mobility. Using administrative data from a large, urban, public school district in the U.S., we apply student fixed effects and event studies methods to analyze the academic and behavioral performance of students changing schools. The results indicate that students who moved to schools implementing the City Connects intervention performed better academically and behaviorally than other students.

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Catherine Armstrong Asher, Ethan Scherer, James S. Kim, Johanna Norshus Tvedt.

We leverage log data from an educational app and two-way text message records from over 3,500 students during the summers of 2019 and 2020, along with in-depth interviews in Spanish and English, to identify patterns of family engagement with educational technology. Based on the type and timing of technology use, we identify several distinct profiles of engagement, which we group into two categories: Independent Users who engage with technology-based educational software independently, and Interaction-Supported Users who use two-way communications to support their engagement. We also find that as the demands of families from schools increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, Spanish-speaking families were significantly more likely than English-speaking families to engage with educational technology across all categories of families, particularly as Interaction-Supported Users.

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Sandra E. Black, Lesley J. Turner, Jeffrey T. Denning.

In 2006, the federal government effectively uncapped student borrowing for graduate programs with the introduction of the Graduate PLUS loan program. Access to additional federal loans increased graduate students’ borrowing and shifted the composition of their loans from private to federal debt. However, the increase in borrowing limits did not improve access to existing programs overall or for underrepresented groups. Nor did access to additional loan aid result in significant increase in constrained students’ persistence or degree receipt. We document that among programs in which a larger share of graduate students had exhausted their annual federal loan eligibility before the policy change—and thus were more exposed to the expansion in access to credit—federal borrowing and prices increased.

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Eric A. Hanushek, Matthew Joyce-Wirtz.

School finance court cases have proceeded one or more times in all but two states. Plaintiffs ask the courts to rule that the existing funding formula is unconstitutional under state constitutions, and the defendants call for continuation of the existing finance formula. By compiling and analyzing the universe of such cases, we can accurately describe the nature of the cases, the decisions made, and the long run impact on overall financing of schools. Defendants win a slight majority of decisions with, surprisingly, their victories coming most frequently in low spending states and in low achieving states. And, while plaintiff victories on average yield an immediate increase in funding, they have no influence on long run growth in school spending.

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Paul Yoo, Thurston Domina, Andrew McEachin, Leah Clark, Hannah Hertenstein, Andrew M. Penner.

Virtual charter schools are increasingly popular, yet there is no research on the long-term outcomes of virtual charter students. We link statewide education records from Oregon with earnings information from IRS records housed at the US Census Bureau to provide evidence on how virtual charter students fare as young adults. Virtual charter students have substantially worse high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, bachelor's degree attainment, employment rates, and earnings than students in traditional public schools. Although there is growing demand for virtual charter schools, our results suggest that students who enroll in virtual charters may face negative long-term consequences.

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Dorottya Demszky, Jing Liu.

Although learners are being connected 1:1 with instructors at an increasing scale, most of these instructors do not receive effective, consistent feedback to help them improved. We deployed M-Powering Teachers, an automated tool based on natural language processing to give instructors feedback on dialogic instructional practices —including their uptake of student contributions, talk time and questioning practices — in a 1:1 online learning context. We conducted a randomized controlled trial on Polygence, a re-search mentorship platform for high schoolers (n=414 mentors) to evaluate the effectiveness of the feedback tool. We find that the intervention improved mentors’ uptake of student contributions by 10%, reduced their talk time by 5% and improves student’s experi-ence with the program as well as their relative optimism about their academic future. These results corroborate existing evidence that scalable and low-cost automated feedback can improve instruction and learning in online educational contexts.

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James S. Kim, Joshua B. Gilbert, Jackie E. Relyea, Patrick Rich, Ethan Scherer, Mary A. Burkhauser, Johanna N. Tvedt.

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 framework for helping students connect new learning to a general schema in Grade 1 (animal survival), Grade 2 (how scientists study past events), and Grade 3 (our human body, a living system that helps us survive). 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 schools), students participated in 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 schools), students participated in Grade 3 MORE lessons. Grade 3 lessons for both conditions were implemented online during the COVID-19 pandemic school year. Results reveal that treatment group 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.

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Eric A. Hanushek, Jin Luo, Andrew J. Morgan, Minh Nguyen, Ben Ost, Steven G. Rivkin, Ayman Shakeel.

A fundamental question for education policy is whether outcomes-based accountability including comprehensive educator evaluations and a closer relationship between effectiveness and compensation improves the quality of instruction and raises achievement. We use synthetic control methods to study the comprehensive teacher and principal evaluation and compensation systems introduced in the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) in 2013 for principals and 2015 for teachers. Under this far-reaching reform, educator evaluations that are used to support teacher growth and determine salary depend on a combination of supervisor evaluations, student achievement, and student or family survey responses. The reform replaced salary scales based on experience and educational attainment with those based on evaluation scores, a radical departure from decades of rigid salary schedules. The synthetic control estimates reveal positive and significant effects of the reforms on math and reading achievement that increase over time. From 2015 through 2019, the average achievement for the synthetic control district fluctuates narrowly between -0.27 s.d. and -0.3 s.d., while the Dallas ISD average increases steadily from -0.28 s.d. in 2015 to -0.08 s.d. in 2019, the final year of the sample. Though the increase for reading is roughly half as large, it is also highly significant.

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Margaret Leighton, Jamin D. Speer.

Expected earnings matter for college major choices, and majors differ in both their average earnings and the age profile of their earnings. We show that students' family background is strongly related to the earnings paths of the major they choose. Students with more educated parents, especially those who have graduate degrees, choose majors with lower early-career earnings but much faster earnings growth. They are also less likely to choose safe majors with little early-career earnings or unemployment downside. Parental income has a weaker relationship with major choice and operates mostly through the type of institution the student attends.

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Lucy C. Sorensen, Montserrat Avila Acosta, John Engberg, Shawn D. Bushway.

U.S. public school students increasingly attend schools with sworn law enforcement officers present. Yet, little is known about how these school resource officers (SROs) affect school environments or student outcomes. Our study uses a fuzzy regression discontinuity (RD) design with national school-level data from 2014 to 2018 to estimate the impacts of SRO placement. We construct this discontinuity based on the application scores for federal school based policing grants of linked police agencies. We find that SROs effectively reduce some forms of violence in schools, but do not prevent gun-related incidents. We also find that SROs intensify the use of suspension, expulsion, police referral, and arrest of students. These increases in disciplinary and police actions are consistently largest for Black students, male students, and students with disabilities.

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