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Recent works by C. Kirabo Jackson
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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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    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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  • 01/01/18--16:00: Data Lessons
  • This contains instruction on how to obtain the data used in "Can Online Off-The-Shelf Lessons Improve Student Outcomes? Evidence from A Field Experiment." this folder also includes the code use for the main annalists.

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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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    Recent studies document that, in many cases, the schools that parents prefer over others do not improve student test scores. Two explanations are (a) parents cannot discern schools’ causal impacts, and/or (b) parents value schools that improve outcomes not well measured by test scores. To shed light on this, we employ administrative and survey data from Barbados. Using discrete choice models, we document that most parents have strong preferences for the same schools. Using a regression-discontinuity design, we estimate the causal impact of attending a preferred school on a broad array of outcomes. As found in other settings, preferred schools have better peers, but do not improve short-run test scores. However, for females, these schools confer long-run benefits including reduced teen motherhood, more educational attainment, increased employment, higher earnings, and improved health. In contrast, for males, the effects are mixed. The pattern for females is consistent with parents valuing school impacts on outcomes not well measured by test scores, while the pattern for males is consistent with parents being unable to identify schools’ causal impacts.

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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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    I present a model in which teachers affect a variety of student outcomes through their influence on both cognitive and noncognitive skill. Empirically, I proxy for students’ noncognitive skill using non-test-score behaviors. These behaviors include absences, suspensions, course grades, and on-time grade progression in 9th grade. Teachers have meaningful effects on both test scores and behaviors. However, teacher effects on test scores and those on behaviors are weakly correlated. Teacher effects on noncognitive proxy measures (i.e. behaviors) predict larger impacts on high-school completion and other longer-run outcomes than their effects on test-scores. Relative to using only test-score measures, using teacher effects on both test-score and noncognitive proxy measures more than doubles the variance of predictable teacher impacts on longer-run outcomes. (JEL I21, J00)

    Replication code is availbe at this link:

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    In 2010, the Ministry of Education in Trinidad and Tobago converted 20 low-performing secondary schools from coeducational to single-sex. I exploit these conversions to identify the causal effect of single-sex schooling holding other school inputs constant. After also accounting for student selection, single-sex cohorts at conversion schools score higher on national exams and are four percentage points more likely to complete secondary school. There are also important non-academic effects; all-boys cohorts have fewer arrests as teens, and all-girls cohorts have lower teen pregnancy rates. These benefits are achieved at zero financial cost. Survey evidence suggests that these single-sex effects reflect both direct gender peer effects due to interactions between classmates, and indirect effects generated through changes in teacher behavior.

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    Social scientist have long sought to examine the causal impact of school spending on child outcomes. The literature on this topic was largely descriptive so that it had been difficult to draw strong causal claims. However, there have been several recent studies in this space that employ larger data-sets and use quasi-experimental methods allowing for much more credible causal claims. This paper briefly discusses the older literature and highlights some of its limitations. It then describes a recent quasi-experimental literature on the impact of school spending on child outcomes, highlights some key papers, and presents a summary of the recent findings. Policy implications are discussed.

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    Is a school’s impact on high-stakes test scores a good measure of its overall impact on students? Do parents value school impacts on high-stakes tests, longer-run outcomes, or both? To answer the first question, we apply quasi-experimental methods to data from Trinidad and Tobago and estimate the causal impacts of individual schools on several outcomes. Schools' impacts on high-stakes tests are weakly related to impacts on low-stakes tests, dropout, crime, teen motherhood, and formal labor market participation. To answer the second question, we link estimated school impacts to parents’ ranked lists of schools and employ discrete choice models to estimate parental preferences. Parents value schools that causally improve high-stakes test scores conditional on average outcomes, proximity, and peer quality. Consistent with parents valuing the multidimensional output of schools, parents of high-achieving girls prefer schools that increase formal labor market participation, and parents of high-achieving boys prefer schools that reduce arrests.