Current Issue: Volume 13, Issue 2, Spring 2018

Education Finance and Policy - Volume 13, Issue 2, Spring 2018


The Effect of Career and Technical Education on Human Capital Accumulation: Causal Evidence from Massachusetts. Shaun M. Dougherty. Education Finance and Policy Spring 2018, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 119–148.

Earlier work demonstrates that career and technical education (CTE) can provide long-term financial benefits to participants, yet few have explored potential academic impacts, with none in the era of high-stakes accountability. This paper investigates the causal impact of participating in a specialized high school-based CTE delivery system on high school persistence, completion, earning professional certifications, and standardized test scores, with a focus on individuals from low-income families, a group that is overrepresented in CTE and high school noncompleters. Using administrative data from Massachusetts, I combine ordinary least squares with a regression discontinuity design that capitalizes on admissions data at three schools that are oversubscribed. All estimates suggest that participation in a high-quality CTE program boosts the probability of on-time graduation from high school by 7 to 10 percentage points for higher income students, and suggestively larger effects for their lower-income peers and students on the margin of being admitted to oversubscribed schools. This work informs an understanding of the potential impact of specific CTE program participation on the accumulation of human capital even in a high-stakes policy environment. This evidence of a productive CTE model in Massachusetts may inform the current policy dialog related to improving career pathways and readiness.

Does School Quality Matter? A Travel Cost Approach. Jonathan Eyer. Education Finance and Policy Spring 2018, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 149–167.

Although the majority of school districts in the United States assign students to schools on the basis of geographic location, there is increasing interest from parents and policy makers in school choice programs. These programs allow parents (and children) to choose their school. In many cases, when students opt to attend a nonlocal school, the parent is responsible for transportation. This creates a trade-off between school quality and travel expenditure. This paper estimates the value of school quality in a random utility model framework, using data on rank-ordered preferences submitted in a school choice program in Garland, Texas. I find that a standard deviation of high school quality is valued between $495 and $783, substantially lower than hedonic estimates that include noneducational benefits associated with good schools. In addition to estimating the average value of school quality, this approach can also be used to estimate the value of school quality for demographic groups or for individual students.

The Impact of Teach for America on Non-Test Academic Outcomes. Ben Backes, and Michael Hansen. Education Finance and Policy Spring 2018, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 168–193.

Recent evidence on teacher productivity suggests that teachers meaningfully influence non-test academic student outcomes that are commonly overlooked by narrowly focusing on test scores. Despite a large number of studies investigating the Teach For America (TFA) effect on math and English achievement, little is known about non-tested academic outcomes. Using administrative data from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, we investigate the relationship between being in a TFA classroom and five non-test student outcomes commonly found in administrative datasets: days absent, days suspended, GPA, classes failed, and grade repetition. We validate our use of non-test student academic outcomes to assess differences in teacher productivity using the quasi-experimental teacher switching methods of Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff (2014) and fail to reject the null hypothesis of unbiasedness in most cases in elementary and middle school, although in some cases standard errors are large. We find suggestive evidence that students taught by TFA teachers in elementary and middle schools were less likely to miss school due to unexcused absences and suspensions compared with students taught by non-TFA teachers in the same school, although point estimates are very small. Other outcomes were found to be forecast-unbiased but showed no evidence of a TFA effect.

What's in Your Portfolio? How Parents Rank Traditional Public, Private, and Charter Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans’ Citywide System of School Choice. Jane A. Lincove, Joshua M. Cowen, and Jason P. Imbrogno. Education Finance and Policy Spring 2018, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 194–226.

We examine the characteristics of schools preferred by parents in New Orleans, Louisiana, where a “portfolio” of school choices is available. This tests the conditions under which school choice induces healthy competition between public and private schools through the threat of student exit. Using unique data from parent applications to as many as eight different schools (including traditional public, charter, and private schools), we find that many parents include a mix of public and private schools among their preferences, often ranking public schools alongside or even above private schools on a unified application. Parents who list both public and private schools show a preference for the private sector, all else equal, and are willing to accept lower school performance scores for private schools than otherwise equivalent public options. These parents reveal a stronger preference for academic outcomes than other parents and place less value on other school characteristics such as sports, arts, or extended hours. Public schools are more likely to be ranked with private schools and to be ranked higher as their academic performance scores increase.

School Choice in Indianapolis: Effects of Charter, Magnet, Private, and Traditional Public Schools. Mark Berends, and R. Joseph Waddington. Education Finance and Policy Spring 2018, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 227–255.

School choice researchers are often limited to comparing one type of choice with another (e.g., charter schools vs. traditional public schools). One area researchers have not examined is the effects of different school types within the same urban region. We fill this gap by analyzing longitudinal data for students (grades 3–8) in Indianapolis, using student fixed effects models to estimate the impacts of students switching from a traditional public school to a charter, magnet, Catholic, or other private school. We find that students experience no differences in their achievement gains after transferring from a traditional public school to a charter school. However, students switching to magnet schools experience modest annual losses of −0.09 standard deviation (SD) in mathematics and −0.11 SD in English Language Arts. Students switching to Catholic schools also experience annual losses of −0.18 SD in mathematics. These findings are robust to a series of alternative model specifications. Additionally, we find some variability in the mean school type impacts by students’ race/ethnicity, English language learner status, and number of years enrolled in a choice school. We discuss our results in the context of the variability of choice school effects across an entire urban area, something future research needs to examine.

Pathways to an Elite Education: Application, Admission, and Matriculation to New York City's Specialized High Schools. Sean Patrick Corcoran, and E. Christine Baker-Smith. Education Finance and Policy Spring 2018, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 256–27.

New York City's public specialized high schools have a long history of offering a rigorous, college preparatory education to the city's most academically talented students. Though immensely popular and highly selective, their policy of admitting students using a single entrance exam has raised questions about diversity and equity in access. In this paper, we provide a descriptive analysis of the “pipeline” from middle school to matriculation at a specialized high school, identifying group-level differences in application, admission, and enrollment. In doing so, we highlight potential points of intervention to improve access for underrepresented groups. Controlling for other measures of prior achievement, we find black, Hispanic, low-income, and female students are significantly less likely to qualify for admission to a specialized high school. Differences in application and matriculation rates also affect the diversity in these schools, and we find evidence of middle school “effects” on both application and admission. Simulated policies that offer admissions using alternative measures, such as state test scores and grades, suggest many more girls, Hispanics, and white students would be admitted under these alternatives. They would not, however, appreciably increase the share of offers given to black or low-income students.

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