Class issues

Kevin Lewis

July 08, 2019

Liquidity Affects Job Choice: Evidence from Teach for America
Lucas Coffman et al.
Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming

Can access to a few hundred dollars of liquidity affect the career choice of a recent college graduate? In a three-year field experiment with Teach For America (TFA), a prestigious teacher placement program, we randomly increase the financial packages offered to nearly 7,300 potential teachers who requested support for the transition into teaching. The first two years of the experiment reveal that while most applicants do not respond to a marginal $600 of grants or loans, those in the worst financial position respond by joining TFA at higher rates. We continue the experiment into the third year and self-replicate our results. For the highest-need applicants, an extra $600 in loans, $600 in grants, and $1,200 in grants increase the likelihood of joining TFA by 12.2, 11.4, and 17.1 percentage points (or 20.0%, 18.7%, and 28.1%), respectively. Additional grant and loan dollars are equally effective, suggesting a liquidity mechanism. A follow-up survey bolsters the liquidity story and also shows that those pulled into teaching would have otherwise worked in private sector firms.

Evidence for the Feedback Role of Performance Measurement Systems
Shannon Anderson & Amanda Kimball
Management Science, forthcoming

Performance measurement systems (PMSs) are used to diagnose and remediate problems, termed the “decision-facilitating” or feedback role of management control. We examine whether use of PMSs by individual decision makers is associated with better performance. Experimental studies have isolated individual-level effects of feedback on decision quality; however, it is difficult to extend these findings to natural settings. Archival and survey studies offer evidence on the association between the presence of PMSs and performance but have had limited success in measuring decision makers’ actual use of PMSs and addressing endogeneity of the decision to use PMSs. We use unobtrusively collected data on actual PMS use in 30 K-12 charter schools over three years to test whether teachers who make greater use of two PMSs are associated with greater growth in student learning. We find that teachers’ use of PMSs is associated with increased student learning, consistent with the premise that PMSs facilitate teacher interventions and improve student outcomes. The results are both statistically and materially significant, and they are better explained by PMS use than by selection effects of better teachers using PMSs. Consistent with the organization’s focus on “at-risk” students, the strongest effects of teachers’ use of one PMS are concentrated among the lowest-performing students. In sum, we find broad support for the thesis that the feedback role of PMSs is associated with meaningful performance improvement.

Why Have College Completion Rates Increased?
Jeffrey Denning, Eric Eide & Merrill Warnick
BYU Working Paper, June 2019

College completion rates declined from the 1970s to the 1990s. We document that this trend has reversed - since the 1990s, college completion rates have increased. We investigate the reasons for the increase in college graduation rates. Collectively, student characteristics, institutional resources, and institution attended do not explain much of the change. However, we document that standards for degree receipt may explain some of the change in graduation rates.

Minimum Wage Policy and Community College Enrollment Patterns
Chang Hyung Lee
ILR Review, forthcoming

In this article, the author studies the effect of the minimum wage on community college enrollment using cross-border variation in state minimum wages. To address spatial correlation in local labor market conditions, schools are paired on either side of state borders based on geographic proximity using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Comparing paired schools, the author finds a substantial reduction in enrollment at community colleges in areas with a higher minimum wage. This effect is observed only among part-time students, which suggests that the minimum wage primarily affects students at the margin between work and postsecondary education.

Expertise and Independence on Governing Boards: Evidence from School Districts
Ying Shi & John Singleton
Stanford Working Paper, June 2019

In this paper, we study the roles of expertise and independence on governing boards in the context of education. In particular, we examine the causal influence of professional educators elected to local school boards on education production. Educators may bring valuable human capital to school district leadership, thereby improving student learning. Alternatively, the independence of educators may be distorted by interest groups. The key empirical challenge is that school board composition is endogenously determined through the electoral process. To overcome this, we develop and implement a novel research design that exploits California's randomized assignment of the order that candidates appear on election ballots. The insight of our empirical strategy is that ballot order effects generate quasi-random variation in the elected school board's composition. This approach is made possible by a unique dataset that combines election information about California school board candidates with district-level data on education inputs and outcomes. The results reveal that educators on the school board causally increase teacher salaries and reduce district enrollment in charter schools relative to other board members. We do not find accompanying effects on student test scores. We interpret these findings as consistent with educators on school boards shifting bargaining in favor of teachers' unions.

Public Tuition on the Rise: Estimating the Effects of Louisiana’s Performance-Based Funding Policy on Institutional Tuition Levels
Xiaodan Hu & Pedro Villarreal
Research in Higher Education, August 2019, Pages 636-669

Louisiana’s performance-based funding (PBF) policy is one of the most recent implementations of performance funding established by a state for accountability purposes. Instead of examining direct academic outcomes, this study focuses on tuition increase as an (un)intended outcome of PBF implementation. We use data from multiple sources to create a panel dataset of public postsecondary institutions across the United States from 2005 to 2013. Applying Difference-in-Differences and propensity score analyses procedures to estimate the causal relationship between PBF implementation and tuition levels at public institutions in Louisiana, our results indicate that treated community colleges responded to PBF by increasing tuition levels statistically significantly above that of their counterfactual institutions. While in-state tuition and fees rose statistically significantly faster at public universities in Louisiana after PBF implementation, out-of-state tuition and fees charged by the treated 4-year institutions did not significantly differ from the increases experienced at counterfactual institutions in non-PBF states. We explore possible explanations for the findings and provide implications for practices and future research.

Compared to What? Changes in Interest Group Resources and the Proposal and Adoption of State Teacher Policy
Bradley Marianno
Policy Studies Journal, forthcoming

What is the relationship between changes in interest group resources and the proposal and adoption of state policy? Using a dataset of proposed and enacted teacher policies across five legislative cycles in all 50 states and measures of interest group relative and absolute resource strength, I estimate a series of within‐state fixed effects models that gain identification from changes in interest group resources and teacher policy over time. I find that legislatures propose more unfavorable and fewer favorable policies toward teachers' unions in states where teachers' union opposition interest groups are expending more election (but not lobbying) resources over time. Further, I find that more unfavorable and fewer favorable policies are adopted in states where teachers' union opposition groups are growing in election resource strength. Expanding on prior empirical work, this study suggests that interest group resources matter for policy change and highlights the importance of capturing interest group resource dynamics over time.

The Effect of Advanced Placement Science on Students’ Skills, Confidence and Stress
Dylan Conger et al.
Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming

The AP program has been widely adopted by secondary schools, yet the evidence on the impacts of taking AP courses has been entirely observational. We report results from the first experimental study of AP, focusing on whether AP endows students with greater human capital than other regular and honors courses. We find suggestive evidence that taking an AP science course increases students’ science skill and their interest in pursuing a STEM major in college. AP course-takers also have lower confidence in their ability to succeed in college science, higher levels of stress, and worse grades than their control counterparts.

Associations between classroom climate and children's externalizing symptoms: The moderating effect of kindergarten children's parasympathetic reactivity
Danielle Roubinov et al.
Development and Psychopathology, forthcoming

Classrooms are key social settings that impact children's mental health, though individual differences in physiological reactivity may render children more or less susceptible to classroom environments. In a diverse sample of children from 19 kindergarten classrooms (N = 338, 48% female, M age = 5.32 years), we examined whether children's parasympathetic reactivity moderated the association between classroom climate and externalizing symptoms. Independent observers coded teachers’ use of child-centered and teacher-directed instructional practices across classroom social and management domains. Children's respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity to challenge tasks was assessed in fall and a multi-informant measure of externalizing was collected in fall and spring. Both the social and the management domains of classroom climate significantly interacted with children's respiratory sinus arrhythmia reactivity to predict spring externalizing symptoms, controlling for fall symptoms. For more reactive children, as classrooms shifted toward greater proportional use of child-centered methods, externalizing symptoms declined, whereas greater use of teacher-dominated practices was associated with increased symptoms. Conversely, among less reactive children, exposure to more teacher-dominated classroom management practices was associated with lower externalizing. Consistent with the theory of biological sensitivity to context, considering variability in children's physiological reactivity aids understanding of the salience of the classroom environment for children's mental health.

Student Loan Choice Overload
Benjamin Marx & Lesley Turner
NBER Working Paper, May 2019

What influences college student borrowing? In a field experiment with a large community college, we send emails about federal student loans to students who have received information about financial aid but have not made a borrowing decision. A treatment reminding students that they need not borrow the maximum amount of available loan aid does not affect borrowing. Treatments referencing amounts borrowed by recent graduates shift students from borrowing the maximum amount to not borrowing. Consistent with the hypothesis that students experience choice overload when observing multiple dollar amounts, the response is largest among low-performing students and arises from inaction.

Effects of a Double Major on Post-Baccalaureate Outcomes
Qiong Zhu & Liang Zhang
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming

We use data from the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/12) and propensity score weighting methods to estimate the effect of a double major on bachelor's degree recipients' earnings within 4 years after college graduation. We classify each of a student's two majors in a double major combination as either “higher- or lower-paying,” based on the rank order of the average earnings of each major among single-major students. Our analyses yield three main findings. First, within 1 year after graduation, double major graduates earn significantly less relative to their single major peers with the same higher paying major; however, by 4 years after graduation, their earnings are similar to those with the single higher paying major and significantly higher relative to those with the single lower paying major. Second, we find that double major graduates are more likely to be employed, work longer hours, and pursue graduate education than their single major peers 4 years after graduation. Finally, transcript data suggest that double major graduates take fewer classes in the higher paying major, which may explain their initial earnings penalty relative to those with the higher paying single major.

The Compositional Effect of Rigorous Teacher Evaluation on Workforce Quality
Julie Berry Cullen, Cory Koedel & Eric Parsons
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming

We study how the introduction of a rigorous teacher evaluation system in a large urban school district affects the quality composition of teacher turnovers. With the implementation of the new system, we document increased turnover among the least effective teachers and decreased turnover among the most effective teachers, relative to teachers in the middle of the distribution. Our findings demonstrate that the alignment between personnel decisions and teacher effectiveness can be improved through targeted personnel policies. However, the change in the composition of exiters brought on by the policy we study is too small to meaningfully impact student achievement.

Taking a Break, or Taking a Class? Examining the Effects of Incentivized Summer Enrollment on Student Persistence
Ray Franke & Brian Bicknell
Research in Higher Education, August 2019, Pages 606-635

This study examines the effects of an incentivized summer enrollment initiative on student persistence. In particular, we analyze how participation in summer classes (at least 3 credit hours) affect students’ likelihood to reenroll in the fall semester at a two-year, private, technical college in Boston. The novel initiative, which provides eligible students with a free summer class of up to four credits, was launched in academic year 2010-2011. We obtained data for five consecutive cohorts since implementation at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. To study its effects, we build on the framework of academic momentum, human capital theory, and draw from the behavioral economics literature. To better account for potential selection bias in the estimation, this study employs two propensity score matching techniques, including a doubly robust design. We find that attending summer classes is associated with significant increases in students’ chances to persist and reenroll in the fall semester. More specifically, we estimate the average treatment effect (ATE) and average treatment effect on the treated (ATET) to be between 30 and 32%. Results also show a higher percentage of students enrolling in summer classes at this institution (35%) when compared to national rates. Based on our results and previous findings in the literature, we argue there is mounting evidence that attending summer session increases student persistence and degree completion, and that the combination of summer enrollment with well-designed incentive structures can enhance positive effects further. Implications for policy and educational practice are discussed.

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