- EF&P Takeaways
EFP Spring 2021 16(2)
Prior studies have shown that students of color and students of low socioeconomic status (SES) have lower average standardized test scores and are more likely to be exposed to stressful life events. Students who experience chronic stress may respond differently to new stressors, and therefore a student’s physiological stress response may be a key factor in the academic performance gap between high and low socioeconomic students. However, no prior empirical research has measured test induced physiological stress of K-12 students in a real-world setting. In vol. 16 issue 2 of EFP, Jennifer Heissel, Emma Adam, Jennifer Doleac, David Figlio, and Jonathan Meer examine the cortisol response patterns of low SES students during high-stakes testing weeks.
Many early childhood programs aim to improve parenting practices. Text-message based interventions are an innovative approach to helping parents, and have the potential to be both scalable and low cost. Such programs have been shown to have a particularly positive impact for under-resourced families. Prior research suggests that both the frequency and the content of the text messages may be components that drive student learning gains from such text-message interventions. Building on this prior work, Cortes, Fricke, Loeb, and Song examine whether content and frequency of delivery affects the impact of a textmessage based intervention for preschool literacy. Their work is published in vol. 16 issue 2 of EFP.
STEM education is critical for preparing the future workforce, yet STEM disciplines have high attrition rates. More information is needed regarding interventions that increase STEM degree completion. The strongest correlate of college success more generally is a student’s level of academic preparation, and prior studies have demonstrated that AP exams can particularly impact student outcomes. Taking an AP exam has been shown to improve college preparation and increase on-time bachelor degree completion. In vol. 16 issue 2 of EFP, Oded Gurantz examines the impact of AP performance on postsecondary curricular choices, including within STEM fields, as well as impact variation by gender.
Following the 1983 report ‘A Nation at Risk’, nearly all states raised the number of courses required for high school graduation, and many implemented exit exams. Prior research has examined academic and labor outcomes of raising graduation requirements, yet only one has examined effects on incarceration rates. It is possible that increasing graduation requirements may both increase human capital and therefore human wages for those who graduate, while simultaneously leading to a lower opportunity cost of crime for those who dropout. In vol. 16 issue 2 of EFP, Matthew Larsen utilizes random variation in state policy changes to determine how high school graduation requirements affect arrest rates. Graduation requirement changes examined included changes in the number of required courses as well as the use of exit exams.
Teacher evaluation programs are conceptualized as both accountability and information systems. As accountability systems, teacher evaluation programs are theorized to improve the teacher workforce through selective incentivization or dismissal. As information systems, evaluation programs are theorized to give feedback for teacher improvement through standards-based observation rubrics. However, no causal link has been empirically established between an evaluation program and daily teacher practices. Furthermore, in-class evaluations may be a confounding issue by serving as motivating events for teacher practice. In volume 16 Issue 2 of EFP, Aaron Phipps and Emily Wiseman examine how teacher improvements can be attributed to either accountability or informative components of a DCPS teacher evaluation program.
Ten years ago, many education reformers championed teacher evaluation reform as a solution for improving teacher workforce effectiveness and student outcomes. The initial enthusiasm for these reforms has waned in the face of serious implementation challenges and mixed evidence of efficacy. Even if initial reform efforts were successful, they may be difficult to sustain. In vol. 16 issue 2 of EFP, Thomas Dee, Jessalynn James, and Jim Wyckoff examine the longer run effects of IMPACT, the prominent and controversial teacher evaluation reform in DCPS. Prior research suggested that IMPACT initially improved teacher performance. IMPACT design has been shifted to deemphasize value-added teacher evaluations, and to increase performance standards for lower performing teachers.
EFP Winter 2021 16(1)
Private school choice programs provide families with public funds to attend a private school of their choice. Proponents argue that private school choice programs induce competition and spur changes within the traditional public school system. However, the extent of the current literature on these effects is limited to programs in Florida and Wisconsin, and work examining competitive effects in differing policy environments is needed. The Louisiana Scholarship Program provides vouchers for students with family incomes at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and was initially piloted in New Orleans in 2008. The program was expanded statewide in 2012. By exploiting variation in the geographic location of Louisiana private schools, Anna Egalite and Jonathan Mills estimate the competitive impact of the Louisiana Scholarship Program on public school math and ELA achievement. Their findings are published in vol. 16, issue 1 of EFP.
Policies designed to improve personnel decisions have the potential to improve the quality of the teaching workforce and thus, student outcomes. One such policy is the Effective Teachers Initiative (ETI), which was implemented in 2011 in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The cornerstone of the ETI is a comprehensive teacher evaluation system in which teachers are assessed in three domains: instructional practice, professional expectations, and student performance. Teachers’ ratings are used to inform personnel decisions and skill development efforts, with the goal of improving teacher quality districtwide. A new study in volume 16, issue 1 of EFP by Julie Berry Cullen, Cory Koedel, and Eric Parsons examines the impacts of the ETI policy’s targeted retention on the distribution of teacher quality.
States began introducing performance-based funding (PBF) for higher education institutions in the early 2000s. Initial PBF policies offered relatively low bonuses. Subsequent reforms have tied larger bonus amounts to measures of student progress, such as persistence and degree completion. Most existing evidence on the efficacy of these programs is based on the early, smaller-scale programs with relatively low stakes. A new study by Jason Ward and Ben Ost in vol. 16, issue 1 of EFP examines the effect of high-stakes performance-based funding in Ohio and Tennessee, where nearly all university funding is tied to student performance.
Many college students choose to pursue a double major for labor market competitiveness. Few studies have investigated the effect of double majors on labor market returns. Prior literature has found modest wage premiums in general; however, they also suggest that returns depend on major combinations, with some combinations being not helpful or even disadvantageous when compared with single majors. Using a propensity score weighting method, Qiong Zhu and Liang Zhang estimate the effect of a double major on earnings within four years of college graduation. Their findings are published in vol. 16, issue 1 of EFP.
In 2017, private nonprofit postsecondary institutions provided educational services for approximately 20% of higher education students in the United States. Under normal economic conditions, these institutions generate annual excess revenues, yet little is understood regarding the size and factors related to such earnings. Examining how such revenues are generated is paramount to understanding the financial health of private nonprofit institutions, as well as if and when federal subsidies are needed. A new study by Robert Toutkoushian and Manu Raghav examines the size of private four-year institutions' excess revenue, as well as their associations with institutional characteristics including size, revenue structure, and selectivity. Their findings are published in vol. 16 issue 1 of EFP.
Teachers retire considerably earlier than other professionals because of their pension incentives. Lengthening a teacher’s career is a possible solution to staffing pressures. One approach would be to increase the minimum age for receiving full retirement benefits, but legal and political factors may prevent this type of reform for incumbent teachers. A new study by Dongwoo Kim and colleagues, published in vol. 16, issue 1 of EFP, examines how retention bonuses targeted toward STEM teachers can neutralize retirement “push” incentives and improve school staffing.
EFP Fall 2020 15(4)
Following the Great Recession, there has been renewed interest in worker adjustment following job loss. While some people are able to quickly find new employment opportunities, others leave the job market entirely. Some people enter higher education in response to labor market downturns. The majority of the research on labor market shifts and postsecondary education focus on larger, macroeconomic changes to industries or workers. However, there is a scarcity of research on how small scale labor market shifts affect human capital investment. Further, even less is known about the new fields that people enter following these changes. To address this gap, Andrew Foote and Michel Grosz measure the extent to which enrollment in postsecondary education, particularly community colleges, shifts following job displacement after labor market changes in Education Finance & Policy, vol. 15, issue 4.
Intergovernmental money transfers play an important role in education finance. In many countries, state programs provide nonmatching grants to local governments or school districts to support educational services. In Finland, some educational services at the primary and secondary levels, such as high schools, are funded via the central government and local governments. One Finnish policy was designed to provide intergovernmental grants to municipalities with small high schools and low numbers of students – as these can be very expensive. It is important to study these grants, as municipalities could offset these revenues through reductions in their own funding. Research on the effects of these grants is scarce. In vol. 15, issue 4 of Education Finance & Policy, Antti Saastamoinen and Mika Kortelainen examine the effects of these intergovernmental grants in Finnish high schools.
The racial gap in education is an enduring and persistent issue in the U.S. public school system. One possible contributing factor to the racial achievement gap is a disparity in resources. This discrepancy in school resources is still present, though has decreased in recent years. One possible contributor to the narrowing of the gap is school finance reform, which is court-ordered mandates to disburse funds more equally across public schools within a state through weakening the link between school district wealth and school district funding. A new study by Michah Rothbart at the Syracuse University in vol. 15, issue 4 of EFP investigates the effects of school finance reform by the racial composition of school districts.
The United States has experienced the second largest wave of immigration in its history over the past five decades. Presently, immigrants and children of immigrants account for nearly one-quarter of all school-aged children in the U.S. Given that this figure is expected to increase to one-third by 2050, it is critical to understand how this new wave of immigrant youth in the United States fared in the public education system. While many studies have focused on educational outcomes for immigrants, very few have focused on cross-generational differences. To address this gap, David Figlio and Umut Özek examine academic achievement and attainment outcomes across first, second, and third generations of immigrants in the United States in vol. 15, issue 4 of Education Finance & Policy.
Teach For America (TFA) is a highly selective program that recruits graduating college seniors and other promising candidates, trains them to be teachers, and places them in low-income schools. Since its founding in 1990, TFA has been controversial. Critics argue that TFA does not adequately prepare its teachers and that they leave the profession after only a few years. Proponents of TFA assert that that the program provides a valuable source of teachers to disadvantaged schools. In 2010, TFA launched a large-scale expansion, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education. A new study by Melissa Clark and Eric Isenberg examines changes in the composition of TFA corps members and the effectiveness of TFA corps members recruited and trained during the expansion. Their findings are published in vol. 15, issue 4 of EFP.
Educational technologies have been utilized in an attempt to improve curriculum delivery, data management, or communications between various constituents. However, the people and administrators who make the choices and procure these educational technologies are not the same as the end users of these technologies (i.e., students, parents, and teachers). Frequently, educational technologies are adopted at the district- or state-level and then are adopted at the individual school- or classroom-level. School-to-family communication technology is becoming increasingly popular, as these can potentially remedy communication gaps and better inform families about students’ progress. Learning management systems are often utilized to help bridge this gap. A feature within learning management systems are nudges, automatic messages or prompts, to help promote greater usage and improve student outcomes. In a new study published in EFP vol. 15, issue 4, Peter Bergman examines the adoption and usage of learning management system technology.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Education Policy Innovation Collaborative at Michigan State University
- Education Research Alliance for New Orleans - Tulane University
- Edunomics Lab – Georgetown University
- Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
- National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH)
- Picus Odden and Associates
- RAND Corporation