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High teacher turnover imposes numerous burdens on the schools and districts from which teachers depart. Some of these burdens are explicit and take the form of recruiting, hiring and training costs. Others are more hidden and take the form of changes to the composition and quality of the teaching staff. This study focuses on the latter. We ask how schools respond to spells of high teacher turnover, and assess organizational and human capital effects. Our analysis uses two decades of administrative data on math and ELA middle school teachers in North Carolina to determine school responses to turnover across different policy environments and macroeconomic climates. Based on models controlling for school contexts and trends, we find that turnover has marked, and lasting, negative consequences for the quality of the instructional staff and student achievement. Our results highlight the need for heightened policy attention to school specific issues of teacher retention.
WP 203-0918-1 was originally released in September 2018. An updated version was released in December 2019.
Accurate understanding of environmental moderation of genetic influences is vital to advancing the science of cognitive development as well as for designing interventions. One widely- reported idea is increasing genetic influence on cognition for children raised in higher socioeconomic status families, including recent proposals that the pattern is a particularly US phenomenon. We use matched birth and school records from Florida siblings and twins born in 1994-2002 to provide the largest, most population-diverse consideration of this hypothesis to date. We find no evidence of SES moderation of genetic influence on test scores, suggesting that articulating gene-environment interactions for cognition is more complex and elusive than previously supposed.
Citation: David Figlio, Jeremy Freese, Krzysztof Karbownik, Jeffrey Roth (2018). Socioeconomic Status and Genetic Influences on Cognitive Development. CALDER Working Paper No. 193
It is notoriously difficult to identify peer effects within the family because of the common shocks and reflection problems. We make use of a novel identification strategy and unique data in order to gain some purchase on this problem. We employ data from the universe of children born in Florida between 1994 and 2002 and in Denmark between 1990 and 2001, which we match to school and medical records. To address the identification problem, we examine the effects of having a sibling with a disability. Utilizing three-plus-child families, we employ a differences-in- differences research design which makes use of the fact that birth order influences the amount of time that a child spends in early childhood with their siblings, disabled or not. We observe consistent evidence in both locations that the second child in a family is differentially affected when the third child is disabled.
Citation: Sandra E. Black, Sanni Breining, David Figlio, Jonathan Guryan, Krzysztof Karbownik, Helena Skyt Nielsen, Jeffrey Roth, Marianne Simonsen (2018). Sibling Spillovers. CALDER Working Paper No. 192
We study the effects of access to high school math and science courses on postsecondary STEM enrollment and degree attainment using administrative microdata from Missouri. Our data panel includes over 140,000 students from 14 cohorts entering the 4-year public university system. The effects of high school course access are identified by exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in course offerings within high schools over time. We find that differential access to high school courses does not affect postsecondary STEM enrollment or degree attainment. Our null results are estimated precisely enough to rule out moderate impacts.
This paper was revised February 2019. It was originally released in February 2018.
Citation: Rajeev Darolia, Cory Koedel, Joyce B. Main, Felix Ndashimye, Junpeng Yan (2018). High School Course Access and Postsecondary STEM Enrollment and Attainment. CALDER Working Paper No. 186
This study examines the community-wide effects of two statewide early childhood policy initiatives in North Carolina. One initiative provides funding to improve the quality of child care services at the county level for all children between the ages of 0 to 5, and the other provides funding for preschool slots for disadvantaged four-year-olds. Differences across counties in the timing of the rollout and in the magnitude of the state financial investments per child provide the variation in programs needed to estimate their effects on schooling outcomes in third grade. We find robust positive effects of each program on third-grade test scores in both reading and math. These effects can best be explained by a combination of direct benefits for participants and spillover benefits for others. Our preferred models suggest that the combined average effects on test scores of investments in both programs at 2009 funding levels are equivalent to two to four months of instruction in grade 3.
Citation: Helen Ladd, Clara G. Muschkin, Kenneth A. Dodge (2015). From Birth to School: Early Childhood Initiatives and Third-Grade Outcomes in North Carolina. CALDER Working Paper No. 134
This study examines the community-wide effects of investments in two early childhood initiatives in North Carolina (Smart Start and More at Four) on the likelihood of a student being placed into special education. We take advantage of variation across North Carolina counties and years in the timing of the introduction and funding levels of the two programs to identify their effects on third-grade outcomes. We find that both programs significantly reduce the likelihood of special education placement in the third grade, resulting in considerable cost savings to the state. The effects of the two programs differ across categories of disability, but do not vary significantly across subgroups of children identified by race, ethnicity, and maternal education levels.
Citation: Clara Muschkin, Helen Ladd, Kenneth Dodge (2015). Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Initiatives on Special Education Placements in Third Grade. CALDER Working Paper No. 121
In this paper, we present a closer look at the student achievement trends in the District of Columbia between 2006-07 and 2012-13. We have three main conclusions. First, we find that overall, math scores in the District have improved. The improvements in reading scores during this time frame, however, were primarily limited to the first year after the PERAA implementation. While almost all student subgroups have experienced test score gains in math, these improvements were higher among the more affluent black and Hispanic students. Second, we find that these observed trends in math scores persist even after controlling for the cross-cohort differences in observed student characteristics. In particular, the estimates indicate that less than 10 percent of the year-to-year improvements in test scores can be attributed to the changing student composition in the District over this time frame. Finally, we show that existing students have also experienced gains in math even though the students who are new to the District’s public school system score at higher levels on standardized tests when compared to existing students.
Citation: Umut Özek (2014). A Closer Look at the Student Achievement Trends in the District of Columbia between 2006-07 and 2012-13. CALDER Working Paper No. 119
This paper examines how banning affirmative action in university admissions affects both overall academic achievement and the racial gap in academic achievement prior to college entry. In particular, focusing on college-bound high school students, we use a difference-in- difference methodology to analyze the impact of the end of race-based affirmative action at the University of California in 1998 on both the overall level of SAT scores and high school GPA, and the racial gap in SAT scores and high school GPA. Our primary conclusion is that academic achievement changed very little after the ban.
Citation: Kate Antonovics, Benjamin Backes (2014). The Effect of Banning Affirmative Action on Human Capital Accumulation Prior to College Entry. CALDER Working Paper No. 114
Over 40% of full time four-year college students fail to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, and many never complete their education. This paper describes this sizeable fraction of the U.S. higher education market and estimates counterfactual predicted probabilities of degree completion, had students made different initial postsecondary enrollment choices. Using data from the NLSY97, a rich nationally representative data set, we make several observations. First, policies aimed at increasing postsecondary degree attainment by encouraging college enrollment are likely to be unproductive, given that students who are currently not enrolling in postsecondary education have very low predicted probabilities of completion, due to their low academic preparedness. This holds true for enrollment in both two-year and four-year colleges. Second, we find that students who drop-out of four-year colleges generally also have very low predicted probabilities of completion, although this varies across student groups. Finally, we conclude that had four-year college drop-outs begun their postsecondary careers at a two-year college, their predicted probabilities of postsecondary degree completion would be significantly higher. While most of this increase in degree completion comes through increased associate’s degree attainment, about a third of four-year college drop-outs would have a higher chance of bachelor’s degree completion, had they begun college at a two-year institution. While our results are only a descriptive analysis, and should not be interpreted as causal findings, until more is understood about the types of students who drop-out of college and potential reasons why, there will likely be little progress in reducing the college failure rate in the U.S.
Citation: Erin Dunlop Velez (2014). America’s College Drop-Out Epidemic: Understanding the College Drop-Out Population. CALDER Working Paper No. 109
In this paper we will briefly review recent trends in employment outcomes for disadvantaged youth, focusing specifically on those who have become "disconnected" from school and the labor market, and why these trends have occurred. We then review a range of policy prescriptions that might improve those outcomes. These policies include: 1) Efforts to enhance education and employment outcomes, both among in-school youth who are at risk of dropping out and becoming disconnected as well as out-of-school youth who have already done so; 2) Policies to increase earnings and incent more labor force participation among youth, such as expanding the eligibility of childless adults (and especially non-custodial parents) for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); and 3) Specific policies to reduce barriers to employment faced by ex-offenders and non-custodial parents (NCPs). We also consider policies that target the demand side of the labor market, in efforts to spur the willingness of employers to hire these young people and perhaps to improve the quality of jobs available to them.
Citation: Peter B. Edelman, Harry Holzer (2013). Connecting the Disconnected: Improving Education and Employment Outcomes Among Disadvantaged Youth. CALDER Working Paper No. 96
Current federal education policies promote learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and the participation of minority students in these fields. Using longitudinal data on students in Florida and North Carolina, value-added estimates in math and science are generated to categorize schools into performance levels and identify differences in school STEM measures by performance levels. Several STEM-relevant variables show a significant association with effectiveness in math and science, including STEM teacher turnover, calculus and early algebra participation, and math and science instructional indices created from survey items in the data. Surprisingly, a negative association between students’ STEM course participation and success in STEM is consistently documented across both states, in addition to low participation of underrepresented minority students in successful schools in STEM.
Citation: Michael Hansen (2013). Characteristics of Schools Successful in STEM: Evidence from Two States’ Longitudinal Data. CALDER Working Paper No. 97
Students who do not have access to credit may not be able to complete their optimal level of post-secondary education. More than one out of every ten community college students nationwide attends a community college that does not allow access to federal college loans. This paper takes advantage of plausibly exogenous variation in whether a student's community college offers student loans to evaluate the effect of access to Stafford loans on student outcomes, including educational attainment, employment, and finances. Using the Beginning Postsecondary Student Study of 2004, I show that access to federal Stafford loans does not affect the decision to attend community college. However, I find that Stafford loan access increases overall borrowing among community college students by $262 a year and increases the likelihood of transferring to a four-year school by 5.6 percentage points. Additionally, for high-need and female students, loan access increases their total months of enrollment and dependent students' bachelor's degree attainment as well. These sizable effects of loan access on student behavior indicate that federal loans relax credit constraints for some community college students.
Citation: Erin Dunlop Velez (2013). What Do Stafford Loans Actually Buy You? - The Effect of Stafford Loan Access on Community College Students. CALDER Working Paper No. 94
This paper assesses the extent to which schools in the University of California (UC) system were able to restore racial diversity among admitted students using race-neutral polices after California’s ban on race-based affirmative action. Using administrative data from the UC from before and after the ban on race-contingent admissions policies, we present evidence that UC campuses changed the weight given to SAT scores, grades and family background characteristics after the end of affirmative action, and that these changes were able to substantially (though far from completely) offset the fall in minority admissions rate after the ban on affirmative action. In addition, we explore the possible inefficiencies generated by these changes in the admissions process, and find that while the new admissions rules affected the composition of admitted students, it is not clear that overall student quality declined. These results have important implications in light of the declining number of public universities in the United States that practice race-based affirmative action.
Citation: Kate Antonovics, Benjamin Backes (2013). Color-Blind Affirmative Action and Student Quality. CALDER Working Paper No. 93
This paper contributes to the empirical literature on remediation in community colleges by using policy variation across North Carolina’s community colleges to examine how remediation affects various outcomes for traditional-age college students. We find that being required to take a remedial course (as we define it in this paper) either in math or in English significantly reduces a student’s probability of success in college and also the probability that a student ever passes a college-level math or English course. Among students who are required to take a remedial course in their first semester, however, we find no adverse effects on the probability of returning for another semester. We also find differential effects by a student’s prior achievement level, family income and gender. Despite the difference in the methodologies, our main findings are generally consistent with, albeit somewhat more negative, than those from prior studies based on regression discontinuity designs.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Helen Ladd, Jacob Vigdor, Clara Muschkin (2013). Developmental Education in North Carolina Community Colleges. CALDER Working Paper No. 88
There has been a resurgence in research that investigates the efficacy of early investments as a means of reducing gaps in academic performance. However, the strongest evidence for these effects comes from experimental evaluations of small, highly enriched programs. We add to this literature by assessing the extent to which a large-scale public program, Texas's targeted pre-Kindergarten (pre-K), affects scores on math and reading achievement tests, the likelihood of being retained in grade, and the probability that a student receives special education services. We find that having participated in Texas's targeted pre-K program is associated with increased scores on the math and reading sections of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), reductions in the likelihood of being retained in grade, and reductions in the probability of receiving special education services. We also find that participating pre-K increases mathematics scores for students who take the Spanish version of the TAAS tests. These results show that even modest, public pre-K program implemented at scale can have important effects on students’ educational achievement.
Citation: Rodney J. Andrews, Paul Jargowsky, Kristin Kuhne (2012). The Effects of Texas’s Targeted Pre-Kindergarten Program on Academic Performance. CALDER Working Paper No. 84
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
This paper provides practical guidance for researchers who are designing and analyzing studies that randomize schools — which comprise three levels of clustering (students in classrooms in schools) — to measure intervention effects on student academic outcomes when information on the middle level (classrooms) is missing. This situation arises frequently in practice because many available data sets identify the schools that students attend but not the classrooms in which they are taught. Do studies conducted under these circumstances yield results that are substantially different from what they would have been if this information had been available? The paper first considers this problem in the context of planning a school randomized study based on preexisting two-level information about how academic outcomes for students vary across schools and across students within schools (but not across classrooms in schools). The paper next considers this issue in the context of estimating intervention effects from school-randomized studies. Findings are based on empirical analyses of four multisite data sets using academic outcomes for students within classrooms within schools. The results indicate that in almost all situations one will obtain nearly identical results whether or not the classroom or middle level is omitted when designing or analyzing studies.
Citation: Pei Zhu, Robin Jacob, Howard Bloom, Zeyu Xu (2011). Designing and Analyzing Studies that Randomize Schools To Estimate Intervention Effects on Student Academic Outcomes Without Classroom-Level Information. CALDER Working Paper No. 61
Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between the rich and the poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to early secondary school students reduce these disparities? This study covers years 2000 to 2005, a period when home computers and high-speed Internet access expanded dramatically. Using administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys that document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use, the authors compared the children's reading and math scores before and after they acquired a home computer, and compared these scores to those of peers who had a home computer by fifth grade and to test scores of students who never acquired a home computer. The introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. The authors also conclude that home computers are put to more productive use in households where parental monitoring is more effective. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.
Citation: Jacob Vigdor, Helen Ladd (2010). Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement. CALDER Working Paper No. 48
The gold standard in making causal inference on program effects is a randomized trial. Most randomization designs in education randomize classrooms or schools rather than individual students. Such "clustered randomization" designs have one principal drawback: They tend to have limited statistical power or precision. This study aims to provide empirical information needed to design adequately powered studies that randomize schools using data from Florida and North Carolina. The authors assess how different covariates contribute to improving the statistical power of a randomization design and examine differences between math and reading tests; differences between test types (curriculum-referenced tests versus norm-referenced tests); and differences between elementary school and secondary school, to see if the test subject, test type, or grade level makes a large difference in the crucial design parameters. Finally they assess bias in 2-level models that ignore the clustering of students in classrooms.
Citation: Zeyu Xu, Austin Nichols (2010). New Estimates of Design Parameters for Clustered Randomization Studies: Findings from North Carolina and Florida. CALDER Working Paper No. 43
This paper describes the school mobility rates for elementary and middle school students in North Carolina and attempts to estimate the effect of school mobility on the performance of different groups of students using student fixed effects models. School mobility is defined as changing schools at times that are non-promotional (e.g., moving from middle to high school). We used detailed administrative data on North Carolina students and schools from 1996 to 2005 and followed four cohorts of 3rd graders for six years each. School mobility rates were highest for minority and disadvantaged students. School mobility rates for Hispanic students declined across successive cohorts, but increased for Black students. Findings on effects were most pronounced in math. School mobility hurt the math performance of Black and Hispanic students, but not the math performance of white students. School mobility improved the reading performance of white and more advantaged students, but had no effect on the reading performance of minority students. "Strategic" school moves (cross-district) benefitted or had no effect on student performance, but "reactive" moves (within district) hurt all groups of students. White and Hispanic students were more likely to move to a higher quality school while Blacks were more likely to move to a lower quality school. The negative effects of school mobility increased with the number of school moves.
Citation: Zeyu Xu, Jane Hannaway, Stephanie D'Souza (2009). Student Transience in North Carolina:The Effect of School Mobility on Student Outcomes Using Longitudinal Data. CALDER Working Paper No. 22