Modern career academies aim to prepare students for college and the labor market. This paper examines the profile of students entering such academies in one school district and estimates causal effects of participation in one of the district’s well-regarded academies on a range of high school and college outcomes. Using rich administrative data from the Wake County Public School System, we find that students who enter contemporary career academies are generally higher performing than their non-academy peers. Further, we document that Hispanic students and those with limited English proficiency are somewhat less likely to enroll than other students, even after we control for differences in prior academic achievement and high school choice sets. Exploiting the lottery-based admissions process of one technology-focused academy, we then estimate causal effects of participation in a career academy on high school attendance, achievement, and graduation, as well as college-going. We find that enrollment in this academy increases the likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment each by about 8 percentage points, with the attainment gains concentrated among male students. We also find that academy participation reduces 9th grade absences but has little influence on academic performance, AP course-taking, or AP exam success during high school. Analysis of candidate mechanisms suggests that roughly one fifth of the overall high school graduation effect can be attributed to improved student engagement in high school.
We investigate factors influencing student sign-ups for Washington State’s College Bound Scholarship (CBS) program. We find a substantial share of eligible middle school students fail to sign the CBS, forgoing college financial aid. Student characteristics associated with signing the scholarship parallel characteristics of low-income students who attend 4-year colleges. Simulations suggest the program may address college enrollment gaps, increasing college-going by some disadvantaged groups, it also would reinforce inequalities in college-going that exist between sub-groups of low-income students. Finally, student sign-up rates are lower than has been previously reported. Importantly, we find a perception among program administrators that nearly all eligible students sign up, which shifts attention away from sign-ups to encouraging pledgees to follow through with program requirements.
We use remarkable population-level administrative education and birth records from Florida to study the role of Long-Term Orientation on the educational attainment of immigrant students living in the US. Controlling for the quality of schools and individual characteristics, students from countries with long term oriented attitudes perform better than students from cultures that do not emphasize the importance of delayed gratification. These students perform better in third grade reading and math tests, have larger test score gains over time, have fewer absences and disciplinary incidents, are less likely to repeat grades, and are more likely to graduate from high school in four years. Also, they are more likely to enroll in advanced high school courses, especially in scientific subjects. Parents from long term oriented cultures are more likely to secure better educational opportunities for their children. A larger fraction of immigrants speaking the same language in the school amplifies the effect of Long-Term Orientation on educational performance. We validate these results using a sample of immigrant students living in 37 different countries.
UTeach is a well-known, university-based program designed to increase the number of high-quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers in the workforce. The UTeach program was originally developed by faculty at the University of Texas at Austin but has rapidly spread and is now available at 44 universities in 21 states; it is expected to produce more than 9,000 math and science teachers by 2020. Despite substantial investment and rapid program diffusion, there is little evidence to date about the effectiveness of UTeach graduates. Using administrative data from the state of Texas, we measure UTeach impacts on student test scores in math and science in middle schools and high schools. We find that students taught by UTeach teachers perform significantly better on end-of-grade tests in math and end-of-course tests in math and science by 5% to 12% of a standard deviation on the test, depending on grade and subject. The effect is larger for the founding site at the University of Texas at Austin than for replication UTeach sites, with estimated upper bounds of additional months of learning for students taught by UTeach Austin graduates of 4.0 months in high school math and 5.7 months in high school science. Controlling for the selectivity of the undergraduate institution appears to explain the differential between Austin and replication UTeach sites, but not the overall difference between UTeach and non-UTeach teachers.
We rely on natural experiments in North Carolina and Washington State, which previously extended time to tenure by one year, to estimate models that assess the relationship between the extended probationary period and absence and attrition outcomes for teachers affected by the new tenure laws. Across both states we find evidence of decreases in teacher absences for probationary teachers who are subject to the new extended tenure laws, and in Washington, we find a significant reduction in absences in the specific year in which tenure was extended. We find mixed evidence for teacher attrition and mobility.
There is mounting evidence of substantial “teacher quality gaps” (TQGs) between advantaged and disadvantaged students, but practically no empirical evidence about their history. We use longitudinal data on public school students, teachers, and schools from two states—North Carolina and Washington—to provide a descriptive history of the evolution of TQGs in these states. We find that TQGs exist in every year in each state and for all measures we consider of student disadvantage and teacher quality. But there is variation in the magnitudes and sources of TQGs over time, between the two states, and depending on the measure of student disadvantage and teacher quality.
It is widely believed that teacher turnover adversely affects the quality of instruction in urban schools serving predominantly disadvantaged children, and a growing body of research investigates various components of turnover effects. The evidence at first seems contradictory, as the quality of instruction appears to decline following turnover despite the fact that most work shows higher attrition for less effective teachers. This raises concerns that confounding factors bias estimates of transition differences in teacher effectiveness, the adverse effects of turnover or both. After taking more extensive steps to account for nonrandom sorting of students into classrooms and endogenous teacher exits and grade-switching, we replicate existing findings of adverse selection out of schools and negative effects of turnover in lower-achievement schools. But we find that these turnover effects can be fully accounted for by the resulting loss in experience and productivity loss following the reallocation of some incumbent teachers to different grades.
This paper examines the role of teaching assistants and other personnel on student outcomes in elementary schools during a period of recession-induced cutbacks in teachers and teaching assistants. Using panel data from North Carolina, we exploit the state’s unique system of financing its local public schools to identify the causal effects of teaching assistants and other staff on student test scores in math and reading and other outcomes. We find remarkably strong and consistent evidence of positive contributions of teaching assistants, an understudied staffing category, with larger effects on outcomes for minority students than for white students.
Improving public sector workforce quality is challenging in sectors such as education where worker productivity is difficult to assess and manager incentives are muted by political and bureaucratic constraints. In this paper, we study how providing information to principals about teacher effectiveness and encouraging them to use the information in personnel decisions affects the composition of teacher turnovers. Our setting is the Houston Independent School District, which recently implemented a rigorous teacher evaluation system. Prior to the new system teacher effectiveness was negatively correlated with district exit and we show that the policy significantly strengthened this relationship, primarily by increasing the relative likelihood of exit for teachers in the bottom quintile of the quality distribution. Low-performing teachers working in low-achieving schools were especially likely to leave. However, despite the success, the implied change to the quality of the workforce overall is too small to have a detectable impact on student achievement.
Educational accountability policies are a popular tool to close the achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students. However, these policies may exacerbate inequality if families from advantaged backgrounds are better able to advocate for their children and thus circumvent policy. We investigate this possibility in the context of the early grade retention policy in Florida, which requires all students with reading skills below grade level to be retained in the third grade, yet grants exemptions under special circumstances. We find that Florida’s third-grade retention policy is in fact enforced differentially depending on children’s socioeconomic background, especially maternal education. Holding exemption eligibility constant, scoring right below the promotion cutoff results increases the retention probability 14 percent more for children whose mothers have less than a high school degree as compared to children whose mothers have a bachelor’s degree or more. We also find that the discrepancies in retention rates are mainly driven by the fact that students with well-educated mothers are more likely to be promoted based on subjective exemptions such as teacher portfolios.
State-specific licensing policies and pension plans create mobility costs for educators who cross state lines. We empirically test whether these costs affect production in schools – a hypothesis that follows directly from economic theory on labor frictions – using geo-coded data from the lower-48 states. We find that achievement is lower in mathematics, and to a lesser extent in reading, at schools that are highly-exposed to state boundaries. A detailed investigation of the selection of schools into boundary regions yields no indication of systematic differences between boundary and non-boundary schools along other measured dimensions. Moreover, we show that cross-district labor frictions do not explain state boundary effects. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that cross-state mobility costs induce frictions in educator labor markets that lower student achievement.
We use statewide administrative data from Missouri to examine the role of high schools in explaining students’ initial college and major placements at 4-year public universities. To facilitate our investigation of postsecondary sorting, we develop a “preparation and persistence index” (PPI) for each university-by-major cell in the Missouri system to measure the quality of that cell...
A vast research literature is devoted to analyzing causes of and potential remedies for early-career teacher attrition. However, much less attention has been paid to late-career attrition among experienced teachers, which is driven primarily by retirement plan incentives. Although there is some variation across states, it is generally the case that late-career teachers retire at much younger ages than their professional counterparts. Moreover, given the well-documented returns to teaching experience, late-career exits are on average more costly to students in K-12 schools than early-career exits. This study uses structural estimates from a dynamic retirement model to simulate the effect of targeted retention bonuses for senior teachers rated as effective or teaching in high-need fields. While the cost per incremental year of instruction is expensive in the short run, it declines over time. Moreover, because labor supply decisions are forward-looking, a temporary bonus has much smaller effects than a permanent one. These findings highlight the value of stability in policies aimed at extending teachers’ careers. Overall our results suggest that carefully-targeted retention bonuses can be useful tool in raising the quality of the teaching workforce and closing achievement gaps.
The purpose of this paper is to assess the effects of this increase in the mandated minimum number of math courses. This assessment entails two separate questions. One is whether the policy affected actual course-taking among high school students. Another question is whether any such changes in high school course-taking, together with the threat of being denied admission, affected college enrollment patterns or students’ choices or performance once enrolled.
We find evidence suggesting that early-arriving first generation immigrants perform better than do second generation immigrants, and second generation immigrants perform better than third generation immigrants.
We argue that the family disadvantage gradient in the gender gap is a causal effect of the post-natal environment: family disadvantage has no relationship with the sibling gender gap in neonatal health. Although family disadvantage is strongly correlated with school and neighborhood quality, the SES gradient in the sibling gender gap is almost as large within schools and neighborhoods as between them. A surprising implication of these findings is that, relative to white children, black boys fare worse than their sisters in significant part because black children— both boys and girls—are raised in more disadvantaged family environments.
Millions of tons of hazardous wastes have been produced in the United States in the last 60 years which have been dispersed into the air, into water, and on and under the ground. Using new population-level data that follows cohorts of children born in the state of Florida between 1994 and 2002, this paper examines the short and long-term effects of prenatal exposure to environmental toxicants on children living within two miles of a Superfund site, toxic waste sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as being particularly severe.
Studies of the charter sector typically compare charters and traditional public schools at a point in time. These comparisons are potentially misleading because many charter-related reforms require time to generate results...
We investigate the relationship between teacher licensure test scores and student test achievement and high school course-taking. We focus on three subject/grade combinations—middle school math, ninth-grade algebra and geometry, and ninth-grade biology—and find evidence that a teacher’s basic skills test scores are modestly predictive of student achievement in middle and high school math and highly predictive of student achievement in high school biology. A teacher’s subject-specific licensure test scores are a consistent and statistically significant predictor of student achievement only in high school biology. Finally, we find little evidence that students assigned to middle school teachers with higher basic-skills test scores are more likely to take advanced math and science courses in high school.
We use longitudinal data from Washington State to provide estimates of the extent to which performance on the edTPA, a performance-based, subject-specific assessment of teacher candidates, is predictive of the likelihood of employment in the teacher workforce and value-added measures of teacher effectiveness. While edTPA scores are highly predictive of employment in the state’s public teaching workforce, evidence on the relationship between edTPA scores and teaching effectiveness is more mixed.
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