Current Issue: Volume 13, Issue 3, Summer 2018

Education Finance and Policy - Volume 13, Issue 3, Summer 2018


Validating Teacher Effects on Students’ Attitudes and Behaviors: Evidence from Random Assignment of Teachers to Students. David Blazar. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2018, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 281–309.

There is growing interest among researchers, policy makers, and practitioners in identifying teachers who are skilled at improving student outcomes beyond test scores. However, questions remain about the validity of these teacher effect estimates. Leveraging the random assignment of teachers to classes, I find that teachers have causal effects on their students’ self-reported behavior in class, self-efficacy in math, and happiness in class that are similar in magnitude to effects on math test scores. Weak correlations between teacher effects on different student outcomes indicate that these measures capture unique skills that teachers bring to the classroom. Teacher effects calculated in nonexperimental data are related to these same outcomes following random assignment, revealing that they contain important information content on teachers. However, for some nonexperimental teacher effect estimates, large and potentially important degrees of bias remain. These results suggest that researchers and policy makers should proceed with caution when using these measures. They likely are more appropriate for low-stakes decisions—such as matching teachers to professional development—than for high-stakes personnel decisions and accountability.

Teacher Workforce Developments: Recent Changes in Academic Competitiveness and Job Satisfaction of New Teachers. Benjamin Master, Min Sun, and Susanna Loeb. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2018, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 310–332.

Policy makers and school leaders are perennially concerned with the capacity of the nation's public schools to recruit and retain highly skilled teachers. Over the past two decades, policy strategies including the federal No Child Left Behind Act and alternative pathways to teaching, as well as changes in the broader labor market, have altered the context in which academically skilled college graduates choose whether to enter teaching, and, if so, where to teach. Using data from 1993 to 2008, we find that schools nationwide are recruiting a greater share of academically skilled college graduates into teaching, and that increases in teachers’ academic skills are especially large in urban school districts that serve predominantly nonwhite students. On the other hand, the increase in the share of academically skilled teachers coincides with the lower likelihood of nonwhite teachers being employed. Once teaching, nonwhite teachers report substantially lower job satisfaction than other teachers. The issue of how to recruit and support an academically skilled and diverse teacher workforce remains pressing.

The Effects of Subgroup-Specific Accountability on Teacher Turnover and Attrition. Matthew Shirrell. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2018, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 333–368.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 required states to set cutoffs to determine which schools were subject to accountability for their racial/ethnic subgroups. Using a regression discontinuity design and data from North Carolina, this study examines the effects of this policy on teacher turnover and attrition. Subgroup-specific accountability had no overall effects on teacher turnover or attrition, but the policy caused black teachers who taught in schools that were held accountable for the black student subgroup to leave teaching at significantly lower rates, compared with black teachers who taught in schools not accountable for the black subgroup's performance. The policy also caused shifts in the students assigned to black teachers, with schools that were held accountable for the black subgroup less likely to assign black students to black teachers the following year. These findings demonstrate that subgroup-focused policies—particularly those that use cutoffs to determine subgroup accountability—can shape the composition of the teacher labor force in unintended ways, and have implications for the design of future accountability systems that aim to close racial/ethnic gaps in achievement.

The Impact of State Aid Reform on Property Values: A Case Study of Maryland's Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act. Il Hwan Chung, William Duncombe, and John Yinger. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2018, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 369–394.

A major feature of the school finance landscape over the last two decades has been the reform of state school finance systems. Using the case of Maryland's Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act, this paper extends the current literature by developing a conceptual framework for residential bidding and sorting and using it to estimate housing market responses to the Maryland state aid reform. With repeat-sales data and many control variables, we find that an increase of $1,000 in current state aid per pupil induced by the reform is associated with an increase of 5 percent to 13 percent in property values. Moreover, within a district the property-value increases are greater in higher-income tracts, where the demand for school quality is likely to be greater.

I Want You! Expanding College Access through Targeted Recruiting Efforts. Brian J. Miller and William L. Skimmyhorn. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2018, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 395–418.

To complement the existing literature on expanding access to high-quality college education, we investigate the understudied topic of university outreach. Using a field experiment at West Point, we estimate the effectiveness of four university admissions outreach efforts (Admissions Office phone call, application encouragement from a role model, recruiting visit by a university staff member, and an invitation to visit campus) on the probabilities of initiating an application and matriculating. We find that all four methods are effective relative to the control group (a mass e-mail solicitation) at increasing applications but only suggestive evidence for increasing matriculation. We observe a few differences in the relative effectiveness of the methods. We complete a simple cost-effectiveness analysis that suggests the admissions call is the preferred method. This evidence should inform researchers, policy makers, and institutions on optimal outreach efforts and program evaluation in student recruitment. 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.

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