School Daze

Kevin Lewis

April 05, 2011

Managing risk and ‘giving back': Aspiration among working-class Latino youth in Silicon Valley

Elsa Davidson
Ethnography, March 2011, Pages 89-113

This article focuses on the formation of aspirations among low-income, ‘at-risk' Latino youth attending a state and privately funded Biotechnology Academy within a public high school in San Jose, California. I identify a pattern of aspiration among Academy youth that contradicts the goal of individual advancement in the regional information economy stressed in the Academy: the desire to give back to a ‘community' or to the nation via public service, especially that focused on the monitoring of ‘at-risk' communities or military service. I link this pattern of aspiration to a school environment that promoted students' internalization of an ‘at-risk' status and encouraged their assumption of personal responsibility for that status. I also seek to demonstrate the ways in which an urban politics of surveillance and experiences of social and economic marginalization outside of school articulated with daily school experiences of surveillance and discipline to produce unanticipated ways of assuming responsibility for an ‘at-risk' status.


Dialogic Argumentation as a Vehicle for Developing Young Adolescents' Thinking

Deanna Kuhn & Amanda Crowell
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Argumentive reasoning skills are featured in the new K-12 Common Standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010), yet with little said about their nature or how to instill them. Distinguishing reasoning skills from writing skills, we report on a multiyear intervention that used electronically conducted dialogues on social issues as the medium to develop argumentive reasoning skills in two cohorts of young adolescents. Intervention groups demonstrated transfer of the dialogic activity to two individual essays on new topics; argument quality for these groups exceeded that of comparison groups who participated in an intervention involving the more face-valid activity of extensive essay writing practice, along with whole-class discussion. The intervention group also demonstrated greater awareness of the relevance of evidence to argument. The dialogic method thus appears to be a viable one for developing cognitive skills that the comparison-group data show do not routinely develop during this age period.


The double-edged sword of pedagogy: Instruction limits spontaneous exploration and discovery

Elizabeth Bonawitz et al.
Cognition, forthcoming

Motivated by computational analyses, we look at how teaching affects exploration and discovery. In Experiment 1, we investigated children's exploratory play after an adult pedagogically demonstrated a function of a toy, after an interrupted pedagogical demonstration, after a naïve adult demonstrated the function, and at baseline. Preschoolers in the pedagogical condition focused almost exclusively on the target function; by contrast, children in the other conditions explored broadly. In Experiment 2, we show that children restrict their exploration both after direct instruction to themselves and after overhearing direct instruction given to another child; they do not show this constraint after observing direct instruction given to an adult or after observing a non-pedagogical intentional action. We discuss these findings as the result of rational inductive biases. In pedagogical contexts, a teacher's failure to provide evidence for additional functions provides evidence for their absence; such contexts generalize from child to child (because children are likely to have comparable states of knowledge) but not from adult to child. Thus, pedagogy promotes efficient learning but at a cost: children are less likely to perform potentially irrelevant actions but also less likely to discover novel information.


What Can You Do with That Degree?: College Major and Occupational Status of College Graduates over Time

Josipa Roksa & Tania Levey
Social Forces, December 2010, Pages 389-415

While income inequality among college graduates is well documented, inequality in occupational status remains largely unexplored. We examine whether and how occupational specificity of college majors is related to college graduates' transition into the labor market and their subsequent occupational trajectories. Analyses of NLSY79 indicate that occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth. These findings illuminate specific ways in which educational and occupational systems interact and provide a novel approach for understanding inequality in labor market outcomes among college graduates.


Examining Racial Differences in the Effect of Popular Sports Participation on Academic Achievement

Kristina Zeiser
Social Science Research, forthcoming

Using data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, this study employs propensity score modeling to measure the effects of participation in varsity football (among men) and varsity basketball (among men and women) in the tenth grade on students' GPAs and math test scores in the twelfth grade. This study also investigates whether the effect of sports participation on student achievement differs between black and white students. The results show that participation in varsity football negatively affects the 12th grade GPAs of black, but not white, men but does not affect the math test scores of either of these subgroups. Moreover, varsity basketball participation leads to higher GPAs in the 12th grade among white, but not black, women. Implications of the different operationalizations of sports participation, the investigation of different student subpopulations, and the different methods of analysis are discussed.


What Makes an Effective Teacher? Quasi-Experimental Evidence

Victor Lavy
NBER Working Paper, March 2011

This paper measures empirically the relationship between classroom teaching practices and student achievements. Based on primary- and middle-school data from Israel, I find very strong evidence that two important elements of teaching practices cause student achievements to improve. In particular, classroom teaching that emphasizes the instilment of knowledge and comprehension, often termed "traditional"-style teaching, has a very strong and positive effect on test scores, particularly among girls and pupils of low socioeconomic background. Second, the use of classroom techniques that endow pupils with analytical and critical skills ("modern" teaching) has a very large positive payoff, evidenced in improvement of test scores across subgroups differentiated by gender and socioeconomic background. However, the effect of each of these two teaching-practices are different at different treatment intensity, the first has its highest effect at low to medium levels of treatment, while the second has its largest impact at high levels of treatment. I also find that transparency, fairness, and proper feedback in teachers' conduct with their students improve academic performance, especially among boys. However, I find no evidence of an effect of a second element of modern teaching, instilment of the capacity for individual study. Apart from identifying "what works" in the classroom, these findings yield two insights for the debate about the merit of "traditional" versus "modern" approaches to teaching, which are often discussed as rival classroom pedagogical approaches. First, one approach does not necessarily crowd out the other; both may coexist in the classroom production function of knowledge. Second, it is best to target the two teaching practices differentially to students of different genders and abilities. The effect of the effective teaching practices estimated is very large, especially in comparison with that of other potential interventions such as reducing class size or increasing school hours of instruction.


The Link between Educational Expectations and Effort in the College-for-all Era

Thurston Domina, AnneMarie Conley & George Farkas
Sociology of Education, April 2011, Pages 93-112

From the Wisconsin status attainment model to rational choice, classical sociological, social-psychological, and economic theories of student educational transitions have assumed that students' expectations are positively related to their ultimate attainment. However, the growth of the college-for-all ethos raises questions about that assumption. Noting that American students' educational expectations rapidly outpaced their educational attainments, Rosenbaum (2001) argues that increasingly unrealistic expectations have perverse negative effects on the school engagement of American high school students. In this article, the authors test the relationship between student expectations and effort using data from a unique longitudinal study of student motivation and three national cohort studies. Contrary to the college-for-all critique, the authors find that educational expectations continue to have robust positive effects on student perceptions regarding the future utility of high school academics and student effort in high school. The relationship between expectations and effort is somewhat attenuated for very low-achieving students and it is weaker today than it was in 1980. Nonetheless, the authors' analyses indicate that the expansion of college expectations has had a net positive effect on American high school students' effort.


The Persistence of Teacher Effects in Elementary Grades

Spyros Konstantopoulos & Vicki Chung
American Educational Research Journal, April 2011, Pages 361-386

Results from experimental and nonexperimental studies have shown that teachers differ in their effectiveness. In addition, evidence from nonexperimental studies has indicated that teacher effects last for 3 years in elementary grades. This study uses data from Project STAR and its follow-up study, the Lasting Benefits Study, to examine whether teacher effects from kindergarten to fifth grade can simultaneously affect sixth grade achievement. Teacher effects are defined as teacher-specific residuals adjusted for student background and treatment effects. Findings indicate that the teacher effects persist through sixth grade in mathematics, reading, and science. The findings also suggest that teacher effects are important and that their cumulative effects on student achievement are considerable.


Schooling and the Vietnam-Era GI Bill: Evidence from the Draft Lottery

Joshua Angrist & Stacey Chen
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, April 2011, Pages 96-118

Draft-lottery estimates of the causal effects of Vietnam-era military service using 2000 census data show marked schooling gains for veterans. We argue that these gains can be attributed to Vietnam veterans' use of the GI Bill rather than draft avoidance behavior. At the same time, draft lottery estimates of the earnings consequences of Vietnam-era service are close to zero in 2000. The earnings and schooling results can be reconciled by a flattening of the age-earnings profile in middle age and a modest economic return to the schooling subsidized by the GI Bill. Other long-run consequences of Vietnam-era service include increases in migration and public sector employment.


High School Guidance Counselor Recommendations: The Role of Student Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Academic Performance

Frank Linnehan, Christy Weer & Paul Stonely
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, March 2011, Pages 536-558

This study explored the relation between student characteristics and counselor recommendations. Based on a sample of 1,713 students, the results indicate that counselors recommended community colleges to students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds more strongly than to students from higher SES backgrounds and recommended 4-year institutions more to students from higher SES backgrounds than to students from lower SES backgrounds. White counselors were more likely to recommend admission-related activities toward 2-year colleges to White than to Black students. In addition, for upper-class students, recommendations toward community college were stronger for Whites with low academic performance than for Blacks with low performance; the reverse was true for upper-class students with strong academic performance. Areas for future research are identified.


Magnet schools, innate talent and social justice

Mark Vopat
Theory and Research in Education, March 2011, Pages 59-72

Beginning in the 1970s, many school US school districts reallocated their already scarce resources from local schools to specially created magnet schools. Many of these magnet schools have some sort of entrance exam, portfolio, or audition requirement that students must pass in order to gain admission. These selective magnet schools are predicated on the idea that there are certain students who have natural talents and abilities that justify their inclusion in these programs. Such programs are seen as simple meritocracies that look beyond race, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic to encourage the innate talent of certain individuals. It is the assumption that such innate talents exist that I take issue with in this article. The assumption that selective magnet schools are simply rewarding talent ignores the overwhelming amount of research that shows that talent is not innate, but is a combination of opportunity, encouragement, and deliberate practice. Based on this research, I argue that selective and competitive magnet schools are fundamentally unfair to students generally and constitute an unjust use of public resources.


Resources and Standards in Urban Schools

Stephen Machin, Sandra McNally & Costas Meghir
Journal of Human Capital, December 2010, Pages 365-393

Despite being central to education policy, there remains significant debate about the extent to which resources matter for pupil outcomes. We consider this in the context of an English policy initiative aimed at inner-city secondary schools. Results show a positive impact on school attendance and performance in mathematics. There is marked heterogeneity, with the greatest positive impact in the more disadvantaged schools and on students of middle/high ability within these schools. We conclude that additional resources can matter for children in the poorest schools. However, small changes in resources have little effect on "hard-to-reach" children.


Uncertainty in Early Occupational Aspirations: Role Exploration or Aimlessness?

Jeremy Staff et al.
Social Forces, December 2010, Pages 659-683

Many youth in the United States lack clear occupational aspirations. This uncertainty in achievement ambitions may benefit socio-economic attainment if it signifies "role exploration," characterized by career development, continued education and enduring partnerships. By contrast, uncertainty may diminish attainment if it instead leads to "aimlessness," involving prolonged education without the acquisition of a degree, residential dependence and frequent job changes. We use nationally representative data from the National Education Longitudinal Study to examine how uncertainty in occupational aspirations in adolescence (age 16) affects wage attainments in young adulthood (age 26). Results suggest that youth with undecided career ambitions earn significantly lower hourly wages in young adulthood than youth with more certain aspirations, supporting the view that uncertainty heightens the risk of labor-market problems.


Reevaluating the Effect of Non-Teaching Wages on Teacher Attrition

Gregory Gilpin
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Most empirical teacher attrition research focuses on estimating the effect of either alternate occupation opportunities or the teacher work environment on teacher attrition. In this paper, we use non-teaching wages of former teachers to estimate the determinants of teacher attrition, including the wage differential between teaching and non-teaching occupations, as well as the teacher work environment. The results suggest that the wage differential only matters for inexperienced teachers with less than 6 years of teaching experience, while the work environment affects both inexperienced and experienced teachers. The magnitude of the wage differential is small relative to the effect of the teaching work environment on teachers' exiting decisions. Furthermore, no compensating differentials of sufficient size are found. For inexperienced teachers, a teacher practicum, i.e., student teaching, is found to reduce attrition while certification and education degrees have no effect. Lastly, whether a teacher lives in households with income above $40,000 (excluding their own) significantly increases attrition.


When to shut students up: Civility, silencing, and free speech

Eamonn Callan
Theory and Research in Education, March 2011, Pages 3-22

Teachers sometimes shut students up for the sake of civility. My question is whether silencing for the sake of civility can be morally justified when a student derogates fellow students as members of some widely stigmatized group, and the offending speech is not for any further reason to be deplored, for example, as a personally targeted insult. Exploring possible answers to that question sheds light on a bigger issue: the proper character of ‘civility regimes' in educational institutions whenever group stigmatization persists in the social background and impinges seriously on some students' lives. A plausible argument for silencing under the conditions specified is derived from respect for students' equal dignity and the protection of fair educational opportunity. That argument is nonetheless defeated by considerations about the rightful place of intellectual candor in a culture of free speech and the centrality of educational institutions in supporting candor's development.


Civic Returns to Higher Education: A Note on Heterogeneous Effects

Jennie Brand
Social Forces, December 2010, Pages 417-433

American educational leaders and philosophers have long valued schooling for its role in preparing the nation's youth to be civically engaged citizens. Numerous studies have found a positive relationship between education and subsequent civic participation. However, little is known about possible variation in effects by selection into higher education, a critical omission considering education's expressed role as a key mechanism for integrating disadvantaged individuals into civic life. I disaggregate effects and examine whether civic returns to higher education are largest for disadvantaged low likelihood or advantaged high likelihood college goers. I find evidence for significant effect heterogeneity: civic returns to college are greatest among individuals who have a low likelihood for college completion. Returns decrease as the propensity for college increases.


Pupil mobility and school disruption

Stephen Gibbons & Shqiponja Telhaj
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Pupil mobility between schools is something to be encouraged if it facilitates the efficient matching of pupils to provision, but discouraged if turnover imposes costs on other pupils through disruption in teaching and learning. With this in mind, we consider the externalities imposed by entrants on the achievements of incumbent pupils in English primary schools. We find that immobile pupils who experience high pupil entry rates in their yeargroups (à la US "grades") progress less well academically between ages 7 and 11 than pupils who experience low mobility in the same school. The disruptive externalities of mobility are statistically significant, but quite small in terms of their educational impact. An increase in annual entry rates from 0 to 10% (a 4 standard deviation change) would set the average incumbent pupil back by between 1 and 2 weeks, or about 5% of one standard deviation of the gain in pupil achievement between ages 7 and 11.


Primary and Secondary School Quality and Intergenerational Earnings Mobility

Nathan Grawe
Journal of Human Capital, December 2010, Pages 331-364

While theory suggests that public expenditures on education may affect intergenerational earnings mobility, the direction of the effect hinges on whether such outlays substitute for or complement private human capital investments. Analysis of U.S. census data, 1940-2000, shows that state-cohorts with low pupil-to-teacher ratios enjoy less intergenerational mobility: a two-standard-deviation reduction in the pupil-to-teacher ratio increases earnings persistence by 40 percent. These results are robust to controls for the average pupil-to-teacher ratio in the state in years the son was not in school, a result contrary to simple endogeneity stories.


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