Education

  • Sean Reardon

Leader: Sean Reardon

The purpose of the Education RG is to examine trends in the extent to which educational access and achievement are related to poverty and family background. The scholars working within this RG are examining state-level differences in the effects of social origins, uncovering the causes of the recent rise in the socioeconomic achievement gap, uncovering the causes of the yet more recent turnaround in this rise (among kindergarten children), and examining the ways in which high-achieving children from poor backgrounds can be induced to go to college. The following is a sampling of relevant CPI projects.

Reducing the race gap in test scores: How can the black-white gap in achievement test scores be eliminated? The new Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA) will provide the most systematic evidence to date on the capacity of school-district policies to reduce the gap.

Colleges and rising income inequality: Are colleges delivering upward mobility for those raised in poverty? The new “Mobility Report Card” will provide unusually detailed data on this fundamental question.

Poverty and schooling on reservations: The noted ethnographer Martin Sánchez-Jankowski is examining how education on reservations can be reformed to reduce dropout, poverty, and suicide. 

Education - CPI Research

Title Author Media
Expanding and Diversifying the Pool of Undergraduates who Study Economics: Insights from a New Introductory Course at Harvard Amanda Bayer, Gregory Bruich, Raj Chetty, Andrew Housiaux

Expanding and Diversifying the Pool of Undergraduates who Study Economics: Insights from a New Introductory Course at Harvard

Author: Amanda Bayer, Gregory Bruich, Raj Chetty, Andrew Housiaux
Publisher: National Bureau of Economic Research
Date: 04/2020

There is widespread concern that economics does not attract as broad or diverse a pool of talent as it could. For example, less than one-third of undergraduates who receive degrees in economics are women, significantly lower than in math or statistics. This article presents a case study of a new introductory undergraduate course at Harvard, “Using Big Data to Solve Economic and Social Problems,” that enrolled 400 students, achieved nearly a 50-50 gender balance, and was among the highest-rated courses in the college. We first summarize the course’s content and pedagogical approach. We then illustrate how this approach differs from that taken in traditional courses by showing how canonical topics – income inequality, tax incidence, and adverse selection – are taught differently. Then, drawing upon students’ comments and prior research on effective teaching practices, we identify elements of the course’s approach that appear to underlie its success: connecting the material to students’ own experiences; teaching skills that have social and career value; and engaging students in scientific investigation of real-world problems. We conclude by discussing how these ideas for improving instruction in economics could be applied in other courses and tested empirically in future research.

Lessons from New York City's Small Schools of Choice about High School Features that Promote Graduation for Disadvantaged Students Howard S. Bloom, Rebecca Unterman, Pei Zhu, Sean F. Reardon

Lessons from New York City's Small Schools of Choice about High School Features that Promote Graduation for Disadvantaged Students

Author: Howard S. Bloom, Rebecca Unterman, Pei Zhu, Sean F. Reardon
Publisher: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
Date: 01/2020

The present paper uses a rich dataset based on naturally‐occurring lotteries for 68 new small non‐selective high schools in New York City, which we refer to as small schools of choice (SSCs), to address two related questions: (1) What high school features are promising levers for increasing graduation rates for disadvantaged students? and (2) What high school features helped to produce SSCs’ positive impacts on graduation rates? Our findings provide suggestive evidence that school leadership quality, teacher empowerment, teacher mutual support, teacher evaluation and feedback, teacher professional development, data‐driven instruction, teacher/parent communication, academic rigor, personalized learning, and teacher/student respect are promising levers for increasing graduation rates for disadvantaged students. Our findings also provide suggestive evidence that many of these school features explain part of the total average SSC effect on graduation rates, although most of this average effect remains unexplained. Lastly, our findings indicate that SSCs are clearly distinguishable from their counterfactual counterparts in terms of school features that were emphasized by SSC funders.

Raising the Stakes: Inequality and Testing in the Russian Education System Michelle Jackson, Tatiana Khavenson, Tatiana Chirkina

Raising the Stakes: Inequality and Testing in the Russian Education System

Author: Michelle Jackson, Tatiana Khavenson, Tatiana Chirkina
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 10/2019

Sociologists have argued that high-stakes tests open the door to high levels of educational inequality at transition points: in a high-stakes testing regime, parents and students are able to focus all energy and resources on test preparation, thus enhancing pre-existing inequalities in academic performance. But arguments about a special role for high-stakes tests are often prosecuted without explicit comparisons to other types of tests and assessments, usually because information on other tests is not available. In this article, we analyze a unique dataset on a contemporary cohort of Russian students, for whom we have PISA and TIMSS scores, low-stakes test scores, and high-stakes test scores. We compare the role each test plays in mediating socioeconomic background inequalities at the important transitions in the Russian educational system: the transition to upper secondary education and the transition to university. We find evidence in favor of a special role for the high-stakes test at the transition to university, but we also find evidence that gives cause to question the standard assumption that high-stakes tests should be a primary focus for those concerned about inequality of educational opportunity.

Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion Jayanti Owens, Sara S. McLanahan

Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion

Author: Jayanti Owens, Sara S. McLanahan
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 06/2019

School suspension and expulsion are important forms of punishment that disproportionately affect Black students, with long-term consequences for educational attainment and other indicators of wellbeing. Prior research identifies three mechanisms that help account for racial disparities in suspension and expulsion: between-school sorting, differences in student behaviors, and differences in the treatment and support of students with similar behaviors. We extend this literature by (1) comparing the contributions of these three mechanisms in a single study, (2) assessing behavior and school composition when children enter kindergarten and before most are exposed to school discipline, and (3) using both teacher and parent reports of student behaviors. Decomposition analyses reveal that differential treatment and support account for 46 percent of the Black/White gap in suspension/expulsion, while between-school sorting and differences in behavior account for 21 percent and 9 percent of the gap respectively. Results are similar for boys and girls and robust to the use of school fixed effects and measures of school composition and student behavior at ages 5 and 9. Theoretically, our findings highlight differential treatment/support after children enter school as an important but understudied mechanism in the early criminalization of Black students.

State of the Union 2019: Student Debt Susan Dynarski

State of the Union 2019: Student Debt

Author: Susan Dynarski
Publisher: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality
Date: 06/2019
  • Relative to Generation X, millennials took out more student loans, took out larger student loans, and defaulted more frequently. 
  • Defaults increased because millennials faced higher tuition payments, took out larger loans to meet those higher costs, turned to for-profit schools that don’t offer any returns, and entered a labor market in the throes of recession.

education - CPI Affiliates

David Harding's picture David Harding Incarceration Research Group Leader, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of California, Berkeley
Greg J. Duncan's picture Greg J. Duncan Life Course Research Group Leader, Distinguished Professor of Education
University of California, Irvine
Sean Reardon's picture Sean Reardon Education Research Group Leader, Life Course Research Group Leader, Professor of Poverty and Inequality
Stanford University
Andrew Penner's picture Andrew Penner Associate Professor of Sociology
University of California, Irvine
Anna Chmielewski's picture Anna Chmielewski Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy
University of Toronto

Pages

Education - Other Research

Title Author Media
Teacher-to-Classroom Assignment and Student Achievement Bryan S. Graham, Geert Ridder, Petra M. Thiemann, Gema Zamarro

Teacher-to-Classroom Assignment and Student Achievement

Author: Bryan S. Graham, Geert Ridder, Petra M. Thiemann, Gema Zamarro
Publisher: National Bureau of Economic Research
Date: 07/2020

We study the effects of counterfactual teacher-to-classroom assignments on average student achievement in elementary and middle schools in the US. We use the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) experiment to semiparametrically identify the average reallocation effects (AREs) of such assignments. Our findings suggest that changes in within-district teacher assignments could have appreciable effects on student achievement. Unlike policies which require hiring additional teachers (e.g., class-size reduction measures), or those aimed at changing the stock of teachers (e.g., VAM-guided teacher tenure policies), alternative teacher-to-classroom assignments are resource neutral; they raise student achievement through a more efficient deployment of existing teachers.

Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion Jayanti Owens, Sara S McLanahan

Unpacking the Drivers of Racial Disparities in School Suspension and Expulsion

Author: Jayanti Owens, Sara S McLanahan
Publisher: Social Forces
Date: 06/2020

School suspension and expulsion are important forms of punishment that disproportionately affect Black students, with long-term consequences for educational attainment and other indicators of wellbeing. Prior research identifies three mechanisms that help account for racial disparities in suspension and expulsion: between-school sorting, differences in student behaviors, and differences in the treatment and support of students with similar behaviors. We extend this literature by (1) comparing the contributions of these three mechanisms in a single study, (2) assessing behavior and school composition when children enter kindergarten and before most are exposed to school discipline, and (3) using both teacher and parent reports of student behaviors. Decomposition analyses reveal that differential treatment and support account for 46 percent of the Black/White gap in suspension/expulsion, while between-school sorting and differences in behavior account for 21 percent and 9 percent of the gap respectively. Results are similar for boys and girls and robust to the use of school fixed effects and measures of school composition and student behavior at ages 5 and 9. Theoretically, our findings highlight differential treatment/support after children enter school as an important but understudied mechanism in the early criminalization of Black students.

Measuring the Effect of Student Loans on College Persistence David Card, Alex Solis

Measuring the Effect of Student Loans on College Persistence

Author: David Card, Alex Solis
Publisher: National Bureau of Economic Research
Date: 05/2020

Governments around the world use grant and loan programs to ease the financial constraints that contribute to socioeconomic gaps in college completion. A growing body of research assesses the impact of grants; less is known about how loan programs affect persistence and degree completion. We use detailed administrative data from Chile to provide rigorous regression-discontinuity-based evidence on the impacts of loan eligibility for university students who retake the national admission test after their first year of studies. Those who score above a certain threshold become eligible for loans covering around 85% of tuition costs for the duration of their program. We find that access to loans increases the fraction who return to university for a second year by 20 percentage points, with two-thirds of the effect arising from a reduction in transfers to vocational colleges and one-third from a decline in the share who stop post-secondary schooling altogether. The longer-run impacts are smaller but remain highly significant, with a 12 percentage point impact on the fraction of marginally eligible retakers who complete a bachelor's degree.

Heterogeneous Effects of Early Algebra across California Middle Schools Andrew McEachin, Thurston Domina, Andrew Penner

Heterogeneous Effects of Early Algebra across California Middle Schools

Author: Andrew McEachin, Thurston Domina, Andrew Penner
Publisher: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
Date: 02/2020

How should schools assign students to more rigorous math courses so as best to help their academic outcomes? We identify several hundred California middle schools that used 7th‐grade test scores to place students into 8th‐grade algebra courses and use a regression discontinuity design to estimate average impacts and heterogeneity across schools. Enrolling in 8th‐grade algebra boosts students’ enrollment in advanced math in ninth grade by 30 percentage points and eleventh grade by 16 percentage points. Math scores in tenth grade rise by 0.05 standard deviations. Women, students of color, and English‐language learners benefit disproportionately from placement into early algebra. Importantly, the benefits of 8th‐grade algebra are substantially larger in schools that set their eligibility threshold higher in the baseline achievement distribution. This suggests a potential tradeoff between increased access and rates of subsequent math success.

Educational Variations in Cohort Trends in the Black-White Earnings Gap Among Men: Evidence From Administrative Earnings Data Siwei Cheng, Christopher R. Tamborini, ChangHwan Kim, Arthur Sakamoto

Educational Variations in Cohort Trends in the Black-White Earnings Gap Among Men: Evidence From Administrative Earnings Data

Author: Siwei Cheng, Christopher R. Tamborini, ChangHwan Kim, Arthur Sakamoto
Publisher: Demography
Date: 12/2019

Despite efforts to improve the labor market situation of African Americans, the racial earnings gap has endured in the United States. Most prior studies on racial inequality have considered its cross-sectional or period patterns. This study adopts a demographic perspective to examine the evolution of earnings trajectories among white and black men across cohorts in the United States. Using more than 40 years of longitudinal earnings records from the U.S. Social Security Administration matched to the Survey of Income and Program Participation, our analyses reveal that the cohort trends in the racial earnings gap follow quite different patterns by education. Race continues to be a salient dimension of economic inequality over the life course and across cohorts, particularly at the top and the bottom of the educational distribution. Although the narrowing of the racial gap among high school graduates is in itself a positive development, it unfortunately derives primarily from the deteriorating economic position for whites without a college degree rather than an improvement in economic standing of their black counterparts.