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Multiple outcomes of education
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We demonstrate how mothers, fathers, and 15–17-year-old students alter their schedules around the K-12 academic year. Using regression discontinuity (RDD) methods, combined with dates on school year start and end dates by locality, we document several notable results. First, mothers are substantially more affected by the school year than are fathers. When school is in session, mothers sleep less, spend more time caring for family members and driving them around, and spend less time on eating, free time and exercise. Fathers see changes that are generally similar in sign but smaller in magnitude compared to mothers. 15–17-year-olds naturally reduce time spent in educational pursuits when school is out (a decrease of about 5.5 hours per day on weekdays), and most of that time is substituted toward free time (an additional 2+ hours per day) and sleep (1+ hours per day). Our results provide a holistic picture of how families build their days around the K-12 school calendar and have implications for policies targeted toward women’s and teenage children’s health and well-being.
Graduating from college into a recession is associated with earnings losses, but less is known about how these effects vary across colleges. Using restricted-use data from the National Survey of College Graduates, we study how college quality influences the effects of graduating into worse economic conditions in the context of the Great Recession. We find that earnings losses are concentrated among graduates from relatively high-quality colleges. Key mechanisms include substitution out of the labor force and into graduate school, decreased graduate degree completion, and differences in the economic stability of fields of study between graduates of high- and low-quality colleges.
In the U.S., state politicians directly influence legislation and budget decisions that can substantially affect public education spending and students. Does the political party of elected officials matter for these outcomes? We use a regression discontinuity design to analyze close house and gubernatorial elections from 1982 to 2016 and find that the impact of Democratic control of state government depends on whether elections occur during a presidential election year. On average, Democratic states spend less per capita on K-12 education. This trend, however, reverses when Democrats secure marginal control during off-cycle elections. Outside of presidential election years, we find increased state expenditures on both K-12 education and higher education. These increases coincided with smaller K-12 class sizes, relatively higher high school diploma rates, and expanded college enrollment. Our results highlight the importance of considering how federal political contexts influence the effects of state-level politics on education finance and outcomes.