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Education policy and program impact
CALDER Policy Brief No. 16-0519
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a recently-implemented policy change to the federally-administered National School Lunch Program (NSLP). It allows schools and districts serving low-income populations to identify all students as eligible for free lunch, regardless of students’ individual circumstances. The purpose of the CEP is to expand meal access to students who attend low income schools, while at the same time reducing paperwork and streamlining the process of participating in the NSLP. An unintended consequence of the CEP is that it reduces the informational content of NSLP-based measures of student poverty because all students at CEP schools are classified as eligible for free lunch. This has important implications for school accountability and finance policies at all levels of government as these policies have become highly dependent on the use of free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) data to proxy for student disadvantage.
Citation: Cory Koedel, Stacey Preis (2019). The Community Eligibility Provision, Free and Reduced-Price Lunch, and Measurement of Poverty: Implications for Education Policy. CALDER Working Paper No.
More than one out of eight students have an identified disability, and students with disabilities tend to lag behind their typical peers on a variety of outcomes. It has been well established that teacher quality is an important determinant of student success, and there are persistent shortages of special education teachers. The available evidence suggests that, on average, students with disabilities are not being assigned to teachers of different quality in comparison to students without disabilities. However, there are many challenges to studying the quality of the teachers who instruct special education students. As a result, we know relatively little about the quality of special education teachers and what factors determine special education teacher quality. One existing study suggests that the determinants of teacher effectiveness for students with disabilities may be rather different than for teachers of nondisabled students; certification status and advanced degree attainment are positively correlated with a teacher’s ability to increase achievement for students with disabilities, but not so for the general student population. Given the difficulty that districts face in hiring and retaining special education teachers, more research on special education teacher quality would be valuable when assessing potential policies such as recruiting bonuses, loan forgiveness, or differential pay.
CALDER Policy Brief No. 11-0918-1
Citation: Curran Prettyman, Tim Sass (2018). Teacher Quality and Outcomes for Students with Disabilities. CALDER Working Paper No.
CALDER Policy Brief No. 8-0918-1
Citation: Steven Hemelt, Matthew Lenard (2018). Career Academies and the Resurgence of Career and Technical Education in the United States. CALDER Working Paper No.
CALDER Policy Brief No. 7-0918-1
Citation: Umut Özek (2018). The Effects of Instruction Time on Student Outcomes. CALDER Working Paper No.
CALDER Policy Brief No. 6-0918-1
Citation: Roddy Theobald (2018). Career and Technical Education for Students with Disabilities. CALDER Working Paper No.
CALDER Policy Brief No. 4-0918-2
Citation: Carrie Conaway, Dan Goldhaber (2018). Appropriate Standards of Evidence for Education Policy Decision-Making. CALDER Working Paper No.
Instructional time is a fundamental educational input, yet we have little causal evidence about the effect of longer school days on student achievement. This paper uses a sharp regression discontinuity design to estimate the effects of lengthening the school day for low-performing schools in Florida by exploiting an administrative cutoff for eligibility. Our results indicate significant positive effects of additional literacy instruction on student reading achievement. In particular, we find effects of 0.05 standard deviations of improvement in reading test scores for program assignment in the first year, though long-run effects are difficult to assess.
Citation: David Figlio, Kristian Holden, Umut Ozek (2018). Do Students Benefit from Longer School Days? Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Florida's Additional Hour of Literacy Instruction. CALDER Working Paper No. 201-0818-1
This paper examines the value of strategically assigning disproportionately larger classes to the strongest teachers in order to optimize student learning in the face of differential teacher effectiveness. The rationale is straightforward: Larger classes for the best teachers benefit the pupils who are reassigned to them; they also help the less effective teachers improve their instruction by enabling them to concentrate on fewer students. But just how much of a difference could manipulating class sizes in this way make for overall student learning and access to effective teaching? This study performs a simulation based on North Carolina data to estimate plausible student outcomes under this approach. In the North Carolina data, I find there is a very slight tendency to place more students in the classes of effective teachers; but still only about 25 percent of students are taught by the top 25 percent of teachers. Intensively reallocating eighth-grade students—so that the most effective teachers have up to twelve more pupils than the average classroom—may produce gains equivalent to adding roughly two-and-a-half extra weeks of school. Even adding a handful of students to the most effective eighth-grade teachers (up to six more than the school’s average) produces gains in math and science akin to extending the school year by nearly two weeks or, equivalently, to removing the lowest 5 percent of teachers from the classroom. The potential impacts on learning are more modest in fifth grade, where the large majority of teachers are in self-contained classrooms. Results show that this strategy shows an overall improvement in student access to effective teaching, yet gaps in access for economically disadvantaged students persist. For instance, disadvantaged eighth-grade students are about 8 percent less likely than non-disadvantaged peers to be assigned to a teacher in the top 25 percent of performance. This gap in access changes little in spite of the policy putting more students in front of effective teachers — because the pool of available teachers in high-poverty schools does not change under this strategy. Thus, this policy alone shows little promise in reducing achievement gaps.
Citation: Michael Hansen (2014). Right-Sizing the Classroom: Making the Most of Great Teachers. CALDER Working Paper No. 110
In 2002/03, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools initiated a broad program of accelerating entry into algebra coursework. The proportion of moderately-performing students taking 8th grade algebra increased from less than half to nearly 90%, then reverted to baseline levels, in the span of just six age cohorts. We use this policy-induced variation to infer the impact of accelerated entry into algebra on student performance in math courses as students progress through high school. Students affected by the acceleration initiative scored significantly lower on end-of-course tests in Algebra I, and were either no more likely or significantly less likely to pass standard follow-up courses, Geometry and Algebra II, on a college-preparatory timetable. We also find that the district assigned teachers with weaker qualifications to Algebra I classes in the first year of the acceleration, but this reduction in teacher quality accounts for only a small portion of the overall effect.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, Jacob Vigdor (2012). The Aftermath of Accelerating Algebra: Evidence from a District Policy Initiative. CALDER Working Paper No. 69