Getting Schooled

Kevin Lewis

December 05, 2022

Changing contexts: A quasi-experiment examining adolescent delinquency and the transition to high school
Brittany Freelin et al.
Criminology, forthcoming 


In a quasi-experiment, we examine whether changing schools during the transition from 8th to 9th grade influences adolescent delinquency, using a sample of more than 14,000 students in 26 public school districts (PROSPER study). The dataset follows students for eight waves from 6th through 12th grade and facilitates a unique, direct comparison of students who change schools with those who remain in the same school during this period. Results show that students who transition between schools report significantly less delinquency after the shift than those who do not, and that this difference persists through 10th grade. This decline is most pronounced when adolescents from multiple middle schools move to a single high school (i.e., multifeeder transitions). Students who transition between schools have fewer delinquent friends and participate in less unstructured socializing following the change in school environment, which partially mediates their reduced delinquency. Results provide some support for theories of differential association and routine activities. Our findings highlight the role of a crucial, yet understudied, life transition in shaping adolescent delinquency. The results from this quasi-experiment underscore the potential of alterations in social context to significantly dampen juvenile delinquency throughout high school.

Labor advantages drive the greater productivity of faculty at elite universities
Sam Zhang et al.
Science Advances, November 2022 


Faculty at prestigious institutions dominate scientific discourse, producing a disproportionate share of all research publications. Environmental prestige can drive such epistemic disparity, but the mechanisms by which it causes increased faculty productivity remain unknown. Here, we combine employment, publication, and federal survey data for 78,802 tenure-track faculty at 262 PhD-granting institutions in the American university system to show through multiple lines of evidence that the greater availability of funded graduate and postdoctoral labor at more prestigious institutions drives the environmental effect of prestige on productivity. In particular, greater environmental prestige leads to larger faculty-led research groups, which drive higher faculty productivity, primarily in disciplines with group collaboration norms. In contrast, productivity does not increase substantially with prestige for faculty publications without group members or for group members themselves. The disproportionate scientific productivity of elite researchers can be largely explained by their substantial labor advantage rather than inherent differences in talent.

School Vouchers and College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence From Washington, DC
Matthew Chingos & Brian Kisida
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming 


Washington, DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), the only federally funded school voucher program in the United States, has provided private school scholarships to low-income students in DC since 2004. From its inception, the program has received significant attention in national debates and has been the subject of rigorous evaluations mandated by Congress. We conduct an experimental evaluation of the effect of the OSP on college enrollment by comparing the college enrollment rates of students offered a scholarship in lotteries held in 2004 and 2005 with those of students who applied but did not win a scholarship. Students who won scholarships to attend private schools were not significantly more or less likely to enroll in college than students who did not.

Employee Evaluation and Skill Investments: Evidence from Public School Teachers
Eric Taylor
NBER Working Paper, November 2022


When an employee expects repeated evaluation and performance incentives over time, the potential future rewards create an incentive to invest in building relevant skills. Because new skills benefit job performance, the effects of an evaluation program can persist after the rewards end or even anticipate the start of rewards. I test for persistence and anticipation effects, along with more conventional predictions, using a quasi-experiment in Tennessee schools. Performance improves with new evaluation measures, but gains are larger when the teacher expects future rewards linked to future scores. Performance rises further when incentives start and remains higher even after incentives end.

Crossing the Finish Line but Losing the Race? Socioeconomic Inequalities in the Labor Market Trajectories of Community College Graduates
Brian Heseung Kim, Kelli Bird & Benjamin Castleman
Education Finance and Policy, forthcoming


Despite decades and hundreds of billions of dollars of federal and state investment in policies to promote postsecondary educational attainment as a key lever for increasing the economic mobility of lower-income populations, research continues to show large and meaningful differences in the mid-career earnings of students from families in the bottom and top income quintiles. Prior research has not disentangled whether these disparities are due to differential sorting into colleges and majors, or due to barriers lower-socioeconomic status (SES) graduates encounter during the college-to-career transition. Using linked individual-level higher education and Unemployment Insurance (UI) records for nearly a decade of students from the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), we compare the labor market outcomes of higher- and lower-SES community college graduates within the same college, program, and academic performance level. Our analyses show that, conditional on employment, lower-SES graduates earn nearly $500/quarter less than their higher-SES peers one year after graduation, relative to higher-SES graduate average of $10,846/quarter. The magnitude of this disparity persists through at least three years after graduation. Disparities are concentrated among non-Nursing programs, in which gaps persist seven years from graduation. Our results highlight the importance of greater focus on the college-to-career transition.

What is the Purpose of Academic Probation? Its Substantial Negative Effects on Four-Year Graduation 
Nicholas Bowman & Nayoung Jang
Research in Higher Education, December 2022, Pages 1285–1311


Placing students on academic probation is a pervasive practice at colleges and universities, but the lasting impact -- and arguably even the purpose -- of academic probation is unclear. The present study explored the influence of academic probation on four-year graduation using regression discontinuity analyses with a dataset of 9,777 undergraduates. The results frequently identified large or very large negative effects of probationary placement on four-year graduation, and these were greatest for probationary criteria based on either semester GPA or an overall GPA criterion in which students had accrued fewer than 30 total college credits. The findings were robust across analytic approaches and were observed regardless of students’ race, sex, first-generation status, high school GPA, and standardized test scores; the effects were sometimes larger among students who had higher high school GPAs and female students. Supplemental analyses suggest that the graduation effects based on cutoffs for college semester GPA and early overall GPA were predominantly or entirely driven by attrition that occurred soon after the probationary placement, whereas graduation effects based on the overall GPA cutoff with at least 30 college credits appeared to be driven mostly by delaying time to degree. These findings have critical implications for institutional policy and practice.

Can a Commercial Screening Tool Help Select Better Teachers?
Olivia Chi & Matthew Lenard
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming 


Improving teacher selection is an important strategy for strengthening the quality of the teacher workforce. As districts adopt commercial teacher screening tools, evidence is needed to understand these tools’ predictive validity. We examine the relationship between Frontline Education’s TeacherFit instrument and newly hired teachers’ outcomes. We find that a 1 SD increase on an index of TeacherFit scores is associated with a 0.06 SD increase in evaluation scores. However, we also find evidence that teachers with higher TeacherFit scores are more likely to leave their hiring schools the following year. Our results suggest that TeacherFit is not necessarily a substitute for more rigorous screening processes that are conducted by human resources officials, such as those documented in recent studies.

Education Under Extremes: Temperature, Student Absenteeism, and Disciplinary Infractions
Kristen McCormack
Harvard Working Paper, November 2022 


How does student behavior respond to extreme temperatures and who is most affected? Using daily student-level data from a large urban school district, I estimate the causal effect of temperature on two dimensions of student behavior that are predictive of academic and later life outcomes: school absences and disciplinary referrals. Absenteeism increases in response to both hot and cold conditions, particularly for Black and Hispanic students. Hot conditions also increase the likelihood that a student will receive a disciplinary referral, an effect found only among students attending schools without air conditioning. Results suggest that unequal access to air conditioning may exacerbate racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in school.

Does ESSA Assure the Use of Evidence-based Educational Practices?
Yuan Chang Ginsberg et al.
Educational Policy, forthcoming 


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 requires that K-12 educational agencies invest federal education funds in evidence-based practices. We estimated what percentage of Title I funds at a large school district are invested in practices supported by a single study meeting one of the top three tiers of evidence as defined by ESSA. Over 95% met this bar. When studies about each practice from four research repositories were considered, the percentage of funds invested in practices with overall positive or mostly positive ratings fell below 60%. These proportions did not change substantially after the introduction of ESSA.

Early Birds in Elementary School? School Start Times and Outcomes for Younger Students
Kevin Bastian & Sarah Fuller
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming 


While research supports later start times for secondary schools, there is little evidence regarding start times for elementary schools. We address this gap with a statewide examination of elementary schools and a quasi-experimental analysis of an urban district that recently changed its elementary start times. We find that earlier start times predict less sleep for students. Regarding academic outcomes, our estimates are small in magnitude and suggest that earlier elementary start times have near-zero effects. Earlier start times predict a slight increase in absences and modestly higher math scores, especially for traditionally disadvantaged students. In districts that need to stagger start times, it may be advisable for elementary schools to start earlier to accommodate later secondary school start times.

Academic Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial Advisors and Their Advisees’ Outcomes
Maria Roche
Organization Science, forthcoming 


The transfer of complex knowledge and skills is difficult, often requiring intensive interaction and extensive periods of coworking between a mentor and mentee, which is particularly true in apprenticeship-like settings and on-the-job training. This paper studies a context that quintessentially describes this type of learning: the academic laboratory. I focus on ways a change in the attention of a principal investigator, moving to entrepreneurship, may influence knowledge transmission and skill development by examining the relationship of this change with their PhD students’ scientific productivity and careers. To do so, I rely on novel restricted-access data encompassing faculty and PhD students in computer sciences, engineering, and the life sciences who were active at an elite U.S. research university from 2001 to 2017. The results suggest a substantial negative association between a professor’s entrepreneurial activity and the short- and long-run publication output of the PhD students they train. Furthermore, I detect a decrease in students’ likelihood of becoming professors themselves but an increase in their likelihood of working for consulting firms on graduation. Finally, I provide evidence suggesting that changes in trainee development are the most feasible drivers of the results rather than changes in trainee research orientation, selection, or life cycle effects.

The Effect of Teachers’ Unions on Teacher Stress: Evidence from District-Teacher Matched Data
Eunice Han & Emma García
Labor Studies Journal, forthcoming


This study examines the effect of teachers’ unions on the stress that teachers experience in their schools. Relying on a nationally representative district-teacher matched dataset in pre-pandemic periods, we employ principal factor analysis to assess to teacher stress and use both contractual status and union membership to measure union strength. Based on multilevel linear model, we find that teachers’ unions are negatively associated with teacher stress. We then exploit natural experiments that occurred in several U.S. states to identify the effect of legal and institutional changes weakening the strength of teachers’ unions on teacher stress. Using the difference-in-difference estimation, we find that the new legislation in these states significantly increases teacher stress, and that the magnitudes of this negative impacts are greater for male, experienced, more qualified, and STEM-subject teachers.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.