EF&P Takeaways

EFP Summer 2020 15(3)

There is an extensive body of research that examines the effects of demographic (mis)match between students and teachers. In particular, the most frequently observed demographic match is by gender and race. The majority of this research is at the K-12 level, with some focused on undergraduate education. However, there is a scarcity of research that examines the effects of demographic (mis)match in the postgraduate or professional school level. Chris Birdsall, Seth Gershenson, and Raymond Zuniga examine the effects of demographic (mis)match in law schools in EFP volume 15, issue 3.

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Both time-to-degree and degree completion rates are critical policy concerns. Many countries have enacted policy efforts designed to reduce total time spent in higher education and to increase overall completion rates of students. A new study in EFP volume 15, issue 3 by Susanna Sten-Gahmberg of the Norwegian School of Economics examines the effects of student aid reform in Norway to determine how various student groups respond to financial incentives.

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Teacher evaluation has been a key focus of education reform efforts in recent years. Following the introduction of the Race to the Top program in 2009, many states redesigned their teacher evaluation systems. Although much of the public controversy has focused on the use of student test scores, classroom observation is the most costly component of teacher evaluations, with potential costs ranging from $1.4 to $4.2 billion per year (mostly consisting of educators’ and administrator’s time.) Video technology has the potential to improve this process in multiple ways—by giving teachers a greater role in evidence-gathering, reducing disputes due to differing recollections, allowing for input from content experts outside the school, providing more specific evidence on teaching practice, and allowing supervisors more flexibility in the timing of when they perform observations. A new study by Thomas Kane and colleagues in EFP volume 15, issue 3 examines the effectiveness of substituting teacher-collected video for in-person observations.

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In 2005, a new policy restricted debtors’ ability to discharge private student loan debt in bankruptcy. The change was motivated by the perceived incentive for people to strategically file for bankruptcy, even if they had (or expected to) have sufficient income to repay their loans. However, the policy sparked concern that the inability to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy can damage debtors’ economic health. A new study by Rajeev Darolia and Dubravka Ritter in vol. 15, issue 3 of EFP examines millions of anonymized credit records to determine whether there were shifts in bankruptcy filing behavior following the 2005 policy reform.

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Public colleges and universities derive a large portion of their revenue from public sources, and the least selective schools are generally the most reliant on state and local appropriations. However, state and local government funding for higher education often reflect external budgetary pressures, with the years spanning 2000 to 2010 representing a period of considerable variation in the resources public colleges received. A new study in vol. 15, issue 3 of EFP by Sarena Goodman and Alice Henriques Volz at the Federal Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System investigates the effects of shifting appropriations on higher education enrollment and borrowing.

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Previous research has established the importance of effective school leadership on student performance. Studies examining turnover in school leadership have generally focused on typical principal turnover or rotation across schools. Fewer studies have explored the effectiveness of policies aimed at principal dismissal or replacement. A research study in EFP volume 15, issue 3 by Elias Walsh and Dallas Dotter of Mathematica Policy Research examines the effects of a large scale principal turnover in the District of Columbia.

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EFP Spring 2020 15(2)

One of educators’ most daunting challenges is to help students who have fallen significantly behind academically. A promising, though expensive, strategy is individualized instruction or tutoring. A more cost-effective option might be to provide small group instruction to students over a week-long vacation period. This approach was adopted by a number of school districts in Massachusetts, and early evaluations of their work suggested positive results.

A new study by Beth Schueler at the University of Virginia in vol. 15, issue 2 of EFP extends this previous research via experimental analysis, examining the effects of small group math instruction for struggling students.

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Teachers are an integral part of the education system. Establishing policies to increase the effectiveness of teachers is of critical interest to both policymakers and school administrators. Prior research finds benefits of middle and high school level teachers specializing in instruction of particular subjects. However, we know far less about the effects of teacher specialization at the elementary school level. A new study by Kevin Bastian and Kevin Fortner, in vol. 15, issue 2 of EFP, advances our understanding of elementary school teacher specialization.

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College access and enrollment vary considerably across racial and socioeconomic groups in the United States. Students’ own college application decisions are an important, but often overlooked, component of college access. A new study by Sandra Black, Kalena Cortes, and Jane Lincove in vol. 15, issue 2 of EFP expands our current knowledge of college access by investigating application decisions.

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Teacher turnover can negatively influence students in three main ways: 1) classroom disruption, 2) staff instability, and 3) differences in quality of replacement and replaced teacher. There is substantial research that demonstrates negative effects of teacher turnover on students. However, less attention has been paid to mid-year teacher turnover. A new study by Gary Henry and Christopher Redding in vol. 15, issue 2 of EFP assesses effects of teacher turnover, with particular focus on the time-point when teachers leave the school.

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The Pell Grant is the single largest source of federal financial aid for low-income college students. The program aims to reduce the cost of education for low-income students, which in turn seeks to increase enrollment and completion rates for low-income students in post-secondary education. One major challenge associated with the Pell Grant is that it only covers tuition for two full-time semesters, which means students are unable to take courses in the summer. To address these concerns, the Year Round Pell Grant program was implemented in 2009. The initial program lasted two academic years, but the program was reinstated by Congress in 2017.

Despite the potential benefits of the Year Round Pell (YRP) program, there is limited research on the effects of these programs. A new study in vol 15, issue 2 of EFP by Vivian Yuen Ting Liu at Teachers College, Columbia University investigates the effects of the YRP program on community college students.

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Most research on people’s preferences for public policies comes from opinion surveys. Academic studies of societal preferences typically focus on either equality of economic outcomes or equality of economic opportunities. A new study by Bernardo Lara and Kenneth Shores, at Universidad de Talca and Pennsylvania State University, in vol. 15, issue 2 of EFP simultaneously examines people’s preferences for equality in both economic opportunities (college access) and economic outcomes (income equality).

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Academic degrees can be bought in India, these are known as gray degrees. The primary reason that people purchase degrees is to give themselves broader opportunities and access on the job market. Despite this open secret regarding bought degrees, there is a scarcity of research on the effect that A new study by Tanmoy Majilla and Matthias Rieger at Erasmus University Rotterdam in vol. 15, issue 2 of EFP examines the potential effects of these gray degrees and employment outcomes in India.

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EFP Winter 2020 15(1)

This century, high school students have increasingly enrolled in academic courses at the expense of enrollments in vocational courses (see the figure below).

Vocational education is a key part of the high school curriculum. However, little is known about what factors drive enrollment in vocational courses, and the effects of enrollment on early careers. A new EFP article by researchers at Georgia State University and the University of Michigan addresses this gap.

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To improve students’ academic achievement, some policymakers have called for increasing the amount of time students spend receiving instruction in school. Educational leaders thus frequently consider either extending the length of the school year or extending the school day. Derek Wu, from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, examined the effects of instructional time on academic achievement.

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During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education began issuing waivers from No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB’s) requirements to states implementing a new version of differentiated school accountability. A key feature of these reforms required states to implement targeted reforms in schools contributing to a state’s achievement gaps. However, states were given considerable flexibility in how they supported these “Focus Schools.” Kentucky articulated a comprehensive school planning process that included a suggested menu of prescriptive whole-school reforms (e.g., extended learning time, teacher collaboration, professional development, data-driven instructional practices, and computer-aided instruction for low-performing students).

Understanding the effects of such differentiated accountability plans is important due to their continuation under the recent reauthorization of NCLB as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Sade Bonilla and Thomas Dee of UMass Amherst and Stanford University, respectively, examined the effects of these reforms in the state of Kentucky.

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State merit-based scholarships were established to retain talent in-state, improve access to higher education, and improve student completion rates. While there is a considerable research base on the relationship between financial aid and enrollment, less is known about the relationship between financial aid and college completion, and even less that focuses on specific types of aid.

Researchers at the University of New Mexico investigated the effects of the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship (NMLLS), a “low-bar” merit-based completion program, on student completion rates.

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In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education implemented a process through which states could apply for exemptions from some of the core requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These exemptions were contingent on states adopting reforms that targeted schools with large within-school achievement gaps between groups of students, or “Focus Schools.” A new study by Steven Hemelt at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Brian Jacob at the University of Michigan in vol. 15, issue 1 of EFP investigated the effects of Focus-school reforms in the state of Michigan on a range of educational outcomes.

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State appropriations for higher education have decreased considerably over the past few decades. Concurrently, states began earmarking portions of their lottery revenues towards higher education funding. However, limited research is available to address the effects of these state lottery earmarks on actual appropriations to higher education. To address this gap, researchers at Miami University Oxford, East Tennessee State University, and Salus University examined twenty years of state funding data to determine these effects.

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EFP Fall 2019 14(4)

Duration and intensity of schooling often come up in discussions about educational effectiveness and in education policy debates. Schooling duration, or years of schooling, has previously been linked to greater learning outcomes. Whereas, schooling intensity, or the amount of content covered in a year, is less well understood. Given too much content, students will be overwhelmed, but too little content will result in students being bored. Therefore, more research is needed to better understand how schooling intensity affects student learning.

A new study by by Vincenzo Andrietti and Xuejuan Su in vol. 14, issue 4 helps to bridge this gap.

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Teachers are an integral part of our education system. Policymakers at the state and district levels have focused on ways to reward and retain effective teachers. The majority of states provide permanent salary increases for teachers who have earned a graduate degree. The average salary increase for graduate degrees costs approximately $174 per student. As such, from a policy perspective, it is important to understand (a) if teachers with a graduate degree are more effective than their peers with undergraduate degrees and (b) if teachers are more effective after earning a graduate degree. A new study by Kevin Bastian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in vol. 14, issue 4 of EFP investigates this important issue.

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Amid growing concerns over college affordability and rising student loan debt, federal policymakers have focused on simplifying the college-going process and improving information for students as they consider their college options. In 2012, the US Department of Education and Obama administration released the shopping sheet (recently renamed the college financing plan), a standardized financial aid award letter that provides students with simplified information about college costs, loan options, and college outcomes. Over 3,000 postsecondary institutions now use the shopping sheet.

A new study by Kelly Rosinger at Pennsylvania State University in vol. 14, issue 4 examines the effects of simplifying financial aid offers.

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With rapidly increasing costs of college, many students and families struggle to pay for postsecondary education. In fact, nearly 70% of students take out student loans through federal financial aid policies to help finance their education. However, even with federal financial aid options, many students still are unable to fully finance their postsecondary education. Therefore, parents often help supplement loans available to their children through cosigning on a loan, borrowing against their home equity, or via debt/loans taken out in their own names.

As financing college plays a critical role in access to postsecondary education, many students may not be able to access or attend college because of financial constraints. A new study by Daniel Ringo in vol. 14, issue 4 investigates if there are students who fail to attend college because of their lack of access to credit markets.

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With costs of higher education skyrocketing, relatively low-cost community colleges play a critical role in policy debates regarding college access. Previous research on community colleges has focused on outcomes for those enrolled in post-secondary education in the 1980s and 1990s. The most recent research on the topic has primarily relied on administrative data - which is limited in terms of examining outcomes for those without previous work experience, and does not allow for comparison to a control group of adults who did not attend college. In recent years, “free college” policies promise free (or reduced) tuition for in-state students to attend community colleges. With the increase in these new free college policies, in tandem with limited previous research, there is a need for further research on community colleges.

A new study Dave Marcotte at American University in vol. 14, issue 4, helps to bridge this gap.

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While significant research has been devoted to student loan borrowing and default, considerably less attention has been paid to other repayment outcomes. Yet, federal student loan policy has seen two recent shifts toward 1) measurement of student loan outcomes using repayment rates versus default rates and 2) increased use of Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans that tie repayment to borrowers’ incomes.

A new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and RTI International in vol. 14, issue 4 of EFP examines these trends.

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Place-based promise scholarships are a relatively recent innovation aimed at expanding college access, while promoting regional economic development through scholarships awarded to students in distinct geographic areas. Following the launch of a place-based scholarship in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2005, over 100 communities have implemented similar promise programs. Despite the rapid growth in these scholarship programs, research regarding the effects of the programs has not kept up. A new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in vol. 14, issue 4, helps to bridge this gap.

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