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Recent works by C. Kirabo Jackson

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    The emergence of large longitudinal data sets linking students to teachers has led to rapid growth in the study of teacher effects on student outcomes by economists over the past decade. One large literature has documented wide variation in teacher effectiveness that is not well explained by observable student or teacher characteristics. A second literature has investigated how educational outcomes might be improved by leveraging teacher effectiveness through processes of recruitment, assignment, compensation, evaluation, promotion, and retention. These two lines of inquiry are closely tied; the first tells us about the importance of individual teachers, and the second tells us how this information can be used in policy and practice. We review the most recent findings in economics on the importance of teachers and on teacher-related policies aimed at improving educational production.


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    Since Coleman (1966), many have questioned whether school spending affects student outcomes. The school finance reforms that began in the early 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s caused some of the most dramatic changes in the structure of K–12 education spending in US history. To study the effect of these school-finance-reform-induced changes in school spending on long-run adult outcomes, we link school spending and school finance reform data to detailed, nationally-representative data on children born between 1955 and 1985 and followed through 2011. We use the timing of the passage of court-mandated reforms, and their associated type of funding formula change, as an exogenous shifter of school spending and we compare the adult outcomes of cohorts that were differentially exposed to school finance reforms, depending on place and year of birth. Event-study and instrumental variable models reveal that a 10 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all twelve years of public school leads to 0.27 more completed years of education, 7.25 percent higher wages, and a 3.67 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; effects are much more pronounced for children from low-income families. Exogenous spending increases were associated with sizable improvements in measured school quality, including reductions in student-to-teacher ratios, increases in teacher salaries, and longer school years.


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    In Trinidad and Tobago students are assigned to secondary schools after fifth grade based on achievement tests, leading to large differences in the school environments to which students of differing initial levels of achievement are exposed. Using both a regression discontinuity design and rule-based instrumental variables to address self-selection bias, I find that being assigned to a school with higher-achieving peers has large positive effects on examination performance. These effects are about twice as large for girls than for boys. This suggests that ability-grouping reinforces achievement differences by assigning the weakest students to schools that provide the least value-added.


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    In Trinidad and Tobago students are assigned to secondary schools after fifth grade based on achievement tests, leading to large differences in the school environments to which students of differing initial levels of achievement are exposed. This paper uses instrumental variables based on the discontinuities created by the assignment mechanism, and exploits rich data which include the students’ test scores at entry and secondary school preferences to address self-selection bias. I find that attending a better school has large positive effects on examination performance at the end of secondary school. The effects are about twice as large for girls than for boys.


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    We investigate the role of social networks in aligning the incentives of agents in settings with incomplete contracts. We study the New York City taxi industry where taxis are often leased and lessee-drivers have worse driving outcomes than owner-drivers due to a moral hazard associated with incomplete contracts. We find that: (1) drivers leasing from members of their country-of-birth community exhibit significantly reduced effects of moral hazard; (2) network effects appear to operate via social sanctions; and (3) network benefits can help to explain the industry organization in terms of which drivers and owners form business relationships.


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    We exploit arguably exogenous train schedule changes in Washington DC to investigate the relationship between public transportation provision, the risky decision to consume alcohol, and the criminal decision to engage in alcohol–impaired driving. Using a triple differences strategy, we provide evidence that both DUI arrests and alcohol related fatal traffic accidents fell, while alcohol related arrests increased, as a result of the expanded hours of Metro operation. However, we find that these effects may be due, in part, to individuals shifting their drinking to evenings when the Metro offered late night service from other evenings. Furthermore, we provide strong evidence that these effects were localized to areas close to Metro Stations and may reflect spatial shifting. Given evidence of both temporal and geographic shifting, the overall effects of public transportation provision on drinking and DUI behaviors on the entire DC area may be small.


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    This article synthesizes the research literature on how to ensure that the teaching workforce is effective. It offers three approaches to improving effectiveness: attract talented individuals into the profession, create incentives for exerting optimal effort, and provide professional development so that teachers have the skills to be effective. The research literature reveals that each approach can yield meaningfully improved student outcomes and that no one strategy is clearly more effective. The policy implication of these findings is that a multifaceted approach would improve teacher effectiveness and student outcomes. However, although there are examples of successful policies, there is no consensus on the most effective practices. The paper concludes that schools need to be data driven, flexible in their employment practices, and open to experimentation.


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    Existing studies on single-sex schooling suffer from biases because students who attend single-sex schools differ in unmeasured ways from those who do not. In Trinidad and Tobago students are assigned to secondary schools based on an algorithm allowing one to address self-selection bias and estimate the causal effect of attending a single-sex school versus a similar coeducational school. While students (particularly females) with strong expressed preferences for single-sex schools benefit, most students perform no better at single-sex schools. Girls at single-sex-schools take fewer sciences courses and more traditionally female subjects.


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    This paper presents a model where teacher effects on long-run outcomes reflect effects on both cognitive skills (measured by test-scores) and non-cognitive skills (measured by non-test-score outcomes). In administrative data, teachers have causal effects on test-scores and student absences, suspensions, grades, and on-time grade progression. Teacher effects on a weighted average of these non-test score outcomes (a proxy for non-cognitive skills) predict teacher effects on dropout, high-school completion, and college-entrance-exam taking above and beyond their effects on test scores. Accordingly, test-score effects alone fail to identify excellent teachers and may understate the importance of teachers for longer-run outcomes

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    This paper extends the traditional test-score value-added model of teacher quality to allow for the possibility that teachers affect a variety of student outcomes through their effects on both students’ cognitive and noncognitive skill. Results show that teachers have effects on skills not measured by test-scores, but reflected in absences, suspensions, course grades, and on-time grade progression. Teacher effects on these non-test-score outcomes in 9th grade predict effects on high-school completion and predictors of college-going—above and beyond their effects on test scores. Relative to using only test-score measures of teacher quality, including both test-score and non-test-score measures more than doubles the predictable variability of teacher effects on these longer-run outcomes.

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    We analyze an experiment in which middle-school math teachers in three school districts were randomly given access to "off-the-shelf" lessons designed to develop students' deep understanding of math concepts. Teaching involves multiple complementary tasks, but we model two: imparting knowledge and developing understanding. In our model, lessons designed to develop understanding substitute for teacher effort on this task so that teachers who may only excel at imparting knowledge can be effective overall -- simplifying the job of teaching. Providing teachers access to the lessons with supports to promote their use increased students' math achievement by about 0.08 of a standard deviation. These effects appear to be mediated by the lessons promoting deeper understanding, and teachers therefore being able to provide more individualized attention. These benefits were much larger for weaker teachers, suggesting that weaker teachers compensated for skill deficiencies by substituting the lessons for their own efforts. The intervention is highly scalable and is more cost effective than most policies aimed at improving teacher quality.

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    In 2010, the Ministry of Education in Trinidad and Tobago converted 20 low-performing pilot secondary schools from coed to single-sex. I exploit these conversions to identify the causal effect of single-sex schooling holding other school inputs (such as teacher quality and leadership quality) constant. After also accounting for student selection, both boys and girls in single-sex cohorts at pilot schools score 0.14σ higher in the academic subjects on national exams. There is no robust effect on non-academic subjects. Additionally, treated students are more likely to earn the secondary-school leaving credential, and the all-boys cohorts have fewer arrests. Survey evidence reveals that these single-sex effects reflect both direct gender peer effects due to interactions between classmates, and also indirect effects generated through changes in teacher behavior. Importantly, these benefits are achieved at zero financial cost.

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    The Texas Advanced Placement Incentive Program pays both students and teachers for passing grades on Advanced Placement (AP) exams. The program was implemented in schools serving primarily low-income, minority populations. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, I find that program adoption is associated with increased AP course enrollment and AP exam taking. Moreover, the program is associated with an increase in students scoring above 1100/24 on the SAT/ACT, and an increase in students matriculating in college. I find no evidence that the rewards distorted behaviors in undesirable ways. I present empirical evidence that teachers and students were not simply aiming to maximize their rewards. This is corroborated by anecdotal evidence that the increases in AP participation were due to better access to AP courses, changes in teacher and peer norms towards AP courses, and better student information. The per-student program costs are small relative to reasonable estimates of the lifetime benefits that may accrue to affected students such that the program may ameliorate sub-optimal educational investments.


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    I analyze changes in teacher turnover, hiring, effectiveness, and salaries at traditional public schools after the opening of a nearby charter school. While I find small effects on turnover overall, difficult to staff schools (low-income, high-minority share) hired fewer new teachers and experienced small declines in teacher quality. I also find evidence of a demand side response where schools increased teacher compensation to better retain quality teachers. The results are robust across a variety of alternate specifications to account for non-random charter entry.


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    Using exogenous secondary school assignments to remove self-selection bias to schools and peers, I obtain credible estimates of (1) the effect of attending schools with higher-achieving peers, and (2) the direct effect of peer quality improvements within schools, on the same population. While students at schools with higher-achieving peers have better academic achievement, within-school increases in peer achievement improve outcomes only at high-achievement schools. Estimates suggest that peer quality can account for over half of school value-added among the top quartile of schools, but little value-added for other schools. The results reveal some large and important differences by gender.


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    This paper presents an analysis of the longer-run effects of a college-preparatory program implemented in inner-city schools that provided teacher training in addition to payments to eleventh- and twelfth- grade students and their teachers for passing scores on Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Affected students passed more AP exams, were more likely to remain in college beyond their first and second years, and earned higher wages. Effects are particularly pronounced for Hispanic students who experienced a 2.5-percentage-point increase in college degree attainment and an 11-percent increase in earnings. While the study is based on non-experimental variation, the results are robust across a variety of specifications, and most plausible sources of bias are ruled out. The results provide credible evidence that implementing high-quality college-preparatory programs in existing urban schools can improve the long-run educational and labor market outcomes of disadvantaged youth.


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    This data-set has the raw annual district-level per-pupil spending data used in Jackson, Johnson, and Persico (2016). Note that these data report school spending in 2010 dollars.



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    We explore whether early childhood human-capital investments are complementary to those made later in life. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we compare the adult outcomes of cohorts who were differentially exposed to policy-induced changes in pre-school (Head Start) spending and school-finance-reform-induced changes in public school spending during childhood, depending on place and year of birth. Difference-in-difference instrumental variables and sibling-difference estimates indicate that, for poor children, increases in Head Start spending and increases in public K12 spending each individually increased educational attainment and earnings, and reduced the likelihood of both poverty and incarceration in adulthood. The benefits of Head Start spending were larger when followed by access to better-funded public K12 schools, and the increases in K12 spending were more efficacious for poor children who were exposed to higher levels of Head Start spending during their preschool years. The findings suggest that early investments in the skills of disadvantaged children that are followed by sustained educational investments over time can effectively break the cycle of poverty. 

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  • 12/31/16--16:00: Replication code for JPE
  • This files contains all the code required to replicate the findings in

    Jackson, C. Kirabo. (forthcoming) "What Do Test Scores Miss? The Importance of Teacher Effects on Non-Test Score Outcomes" Journal of Political Economy         


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    Audits of public school budgets routinely find evidence of waste. Also, recent evidence finds that when school budgets are strained, public schools can employ cost-saving measures with no ill-effect on students. We theorize that if budget cuts induce schools to eliminate wasteful spending, the effects of spending cuts may be small (and even zero). To explore this empirically, we examine how student performance responded to school spending cuts induced by the Great Recession. We link nationally representative test score and survey data to school spending data and isolate variation in recessionary spending cuts that were unrelated to changes in economic conditions. Consistent with the theory, districts that faced large revenue cuts disproportionately reduced spending on non-core operations. However, they still reduced core operational spending to some extent. A 10 percent school spending cut reduced test scores by about 7.8 percent of a standard deviation. Moreover, a 10 percent spending reduction during all four high-school years was associated with 2.6 percentage points lower graduation rates. While our estimates are smaller than some in the literature, spending cuts do matter.

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