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Program and policy effects

Meghan McCormick, Cullen MacDowell, Christina Weiland, JoAnn Hsueh, Michelle Maier, Mirjana Pralica, Samuel Maves, Catherine Snow, Jason Sachs.

This study uses implementation fidelity data from PreK to 1st grade in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to measure instructional alignment and examine whether stronger alignment is associated with sustained benefits of BPS PreK on children’s language, literacy, and math skills through first grade. The study includes N = 498 students (mean age = 5.47, SD = 0.30 in K fall). Children who experienced strong instructional alignment across grades had faster gains in literacy (SD = .47) and math (SD = .28) skills through the spring of first grade compared with non-BPS PreK attenders. Mis-alignment predicted faster convergence in literacy skills. Results highlight that instructional alignment may help to sustain the initial benefits of PreK programs through first grade in a subset of outcome domains. Implications for further research measuring alignment in a broader range of settings and implications for practice are discussed.

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Bobby W. Chung, Jian Zou.
The debate on the stringency of licensure exams for prospective public school teachers is on-going, including the recent controversial roll-out of the educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA). We leverage the quasi-experimental setting of different adoption timing by states and analyze multiple data sources containing a national sample of prospective teachers and students of new teachers in the US. With extensive controls of concurrent policies, we  find that the edTPA reduced prospective teachers in undergraduate programs, less-selective and minority-concentrated universities. Contrary to the policy intention, we do not  find evidence that edTPA increased student test scores.

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Dominique J. Baker, Lauren Mena Shook, Jaime Ramirez-Mendoza, Christopher T. Bennett.

The media discourse on student loans plays a significant role in the way that policy actors conceptualize challenges and potential solutions related to student debt. This study examines the racialized language in student loan news articles published in eight major news outlets between 2006 and 2021. We found that 18% of articles use any racialized language, though use has accelerated since 2018. This increase appears to be driven by terms that denote groups of people instead of structural problems, with 8% of articles mentioning “Black” but less than 1% mentioning “racism.” These findings emphasize the importance of treating the media as a policy actor capable of shaping the salience of racialization in discussions about student loans.

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Andrew J. Morgan, Minh Nguyen, Eric A. Hanushek, Ben Ost, Steven G. Rivkin.

Efforts to attract and retain effective educators in high poverty public schools have had limited success. Dallas ISD addressed this challenge by using information produced by its evaluation and compensation reforms as the basis for effectiveness-adjusted payments that provided large compensating differentials to attract and retain effective teachers in its lowest achievement schools. The Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) program offers salary supplements to educators with records of high performance who are willing to work in the most educationally disadvantaged schools. We document that ACE resulted in immediate and sustained increases in student achievement, providing strong evidence that the multi-measure evaluation system identifies effective educators who foster the development of cognitive skills. The improvements at ACE schools were dramatic, bringing average achievement in the previously lowest performing schools close to the district average. When ACE stipends are largely eliminated, a substantial fraction of highly effective teachers leaves, and test scores fall. This highlights the central importance of the performance-based incentives to attract and retain effective educators in previously low-achievement schools.

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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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Jesse Cunha, Trey Miller, Megan Austin, Lindsay Daugherty, Paco Martorell.

We estimate the societal costs associated with corequisite and traditional pre-requisite English developmental education and compare them to societal benefits. Our context is the randomized controlled trial conducted by Miller et al. (2022) that estimated the effects of three different approaches to English corequisites implemented in 5 Texas community colleges. The main drivers of differential costs across pathways and colleges are the number of credit and contact hours in each pathway, class sizes, and the type of faculty used to teach courses (adjunct or full-time). Corequisites are less expensive than pre-requisite pathways in two colleges, they are more expensive yet roughly similar in two other colleges, and they are much more expensive in one college. Miller et al. (2022) find that corequisites induced more students to pass the required college-level English course in all colleges, but do not find that they impacted persistence in college. Considering the enormous societal benefit of a college education, corequisites are most likely the preferred policy from a societal point of view even when they are more expensive to implement and given that they only have a small impact on the likelihood of completing college. From students’ point of view, corequisites are always preferred because they require less tuition and have a higher likelihood of success.

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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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Mark J. Chin, Lena Shi.

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.

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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 teachers and school leaders 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. 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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