The Impacts of Schools on Racial Attitudes, Prosocial Behaviors, and Sociopolitical Preferences
Breaking Rank? An investigation of families' preferences for schools and their causal moderators. [Dissertation Paper #1 / Job Market Paper]
Most recent version.
I estimate preferences for schools revealed by families’ applications to traditional and choice public options in a large urban school district, which uses a unified enrollment system to determine student assignment. Like prior research, I find that school quality, demographic composition, and proximity to home correlate with families’ application behaviors. I then leverage the district’s unique longitudinal application data to provide the first evidence on the stability of families’ school preferences over time and to test potential causal moderators for these revealed preferences. Families’ top ranked middle and high schools share similar characteristics, but preferences for school quality are less stable than those for demographic composition and proximity. Using experimental variation generated by the random assignment of students to oversubscribed schools through the district’s unified enrollment system, I find little evidence that being assigned to a higher quality (more racially diverse) middle school causes families to prefer higher quality (more racially diverse) high schools. My results demonstrate that families’ preferences for schools can both support and challenge educational policymakers’ goals, such as increasing student access to high quality schools or reducing racial isolation. However, our understanding of what moderates these preferences remains limited.
The impact of school desegregation on White individuals' racial attitudes and politics in adulthood. [Dissertation Paper #2]
In this paper I study the impact of court-mandated school desegregation, which began in the late 1950s, on White individuals’ racial attitudes and politics in adulthood. Using geocoded nationwide data from the General Social Survey, I compare outcomes between respondents living in the same county who were differentially exposed to desegregated schools, based on respondent age and the year of court-mandated integration. With this differences-in-differences approach, I find that exposure to desegregated schools increased White individuals’ conservatism and negatively impacted their racial attitudes and support for policies promoting racial equity, such as affirmative action. Heterogeneity analyses indicate that effects are particularly pronounced in counties where opposition to integration was strongest: Southern counties desegregating after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and counties where support for the Democratic presidential candidate between the 1960 and 1968 elections substantially decreased. My study provides causal evidence for key tenets of the contact hypothesis, which theorizes that Black-White contact in integrated schools can improve outgroup racial attitudes only under certain conditions, including when this intergroup contact has institutional support.
The Importance of Racial Atittudes, Prosocial Behaviors, and Sociopolitical Preferences
Desegregated but still separated? The impact of school integration on student suspensions and special education classification. [Dissertation Paper #3]
Annenberg Institute EdWorkingPaper Pre-print (forthcoming at the Journal of Urban Economics).
In this paper I study the impact of court-mandated school desegregation by race on student suspensions and special education classification. Simple descriptive statistics using student enrollment and outcome data collected from the largest school districts across the country in the 1970s and 1980s show that Black-White school integration was increasing for districts under court order, but not for a set of comparison districts. Similarly, Black student suspension rates were increasing at faster rates in integrating districts relative to comparison districts, and their classification rates as having an intellectual disability were decreasing at slower rates. Differences-in-differences and event study models confirm these patterns I observe in the raw data: after integration, school districts experienced statistically and practically significant reductions in racial isolation across schools and growth in racial disparities in discipline and special education classification. The impacts of integration are immediate, sustained, and robust for student suspensions in particular. My results thus provide causal evidence confirming prior descriptive and theoretical work suggesting that the racial composition of schools may influence measures of categorical inequality by race.
The impact of political party control on education finance and outcomes: Evidence from U.S. states. (with Lena Shi)
Given states’ balanced budget requirements, investment decisions often involve trade-offs between policymakers’ budget priorities. Does political party control affect investment decisions and outcomes? Using a regression discontinuity design based on close state elections between 1984-2013, we find that marginally Democratic legislatures spend more on higher education but less on K-12 education. Rather than trading off within the education budget, policymakers trade education and welfare, particularly in liberal and high-poverty states. Increases in local revenue offset party differences in K-12 spending, suggesting that policymakers make trade-offs by considering the availability of external budget sources and how investments respond to constituents’ needs.
Bias in the air: A nationwide exploration of teachers' implicit racial attitudes, aggregate bias, and student outcomes. (with Dave Quinn, Tasminda Dhaliwal, and Virginia Lovison)
Theory suggests that teachers’ implicit racial attitudes affect their students, but large-scale evidence on U.S. teachers’ implicit biases and their correlates is lacking. Using nationwide data from Project Implicit, we found that teachers’ implicit White/Black biases (as measured by the implicit association test) vary by teacher gender and race. Teachers’ adjusted bias levels are lower in counties with larger shares of Black students. In the aggregate, counties in which teachers hold higher levels of implicit and explicit racial bias have larger adjusted White/Black test score inequalities and White/Black suspension disparities.
Evaluating Educational Agencies' Programs and Policies through Research-Practitioner Partnerships
The effect of English learner reclassification on student achievement and noncognitive outcomes.
Abstract: English learners’ (ELs) day-to-day experiences in school change when reclassified as fully English proficient. Prior research, however, is mixed on how reclassification influences outcomes. Many studies also do not or cannot explore key long-term outcomes or identify impacts over time. In this study I leverage longitudinal student data in a regression discontinuity and find that reclassification after third grade affects ELs’ achievement in the short and longer term. Reclassified ELs score considerably higher on mathematics and reading standardized tests in fifth and eighth grade. I also provide the first causal evidence for the impact of reclassification on several theoretically affected noncognitive outcomes. I find that reclassification substantially lowers the level of challenge for work assigned by teachers and increases ELs’ out-of-school engagement in the short term. However, effects on noncognitive outcomes attenuate or reverse direction in the longer term. Together, these findings highlight the need for evaluations to consider multiple measures and to identify impacts over time when possible, especially when data on long-term outcomes such as high school graduation, college persistence, or labor market success are unavailable.
School district reform in Newark: Within- and Between-school changes in achievement growth. (with Tom Kane, Whitney Kozakowski, Beth Schueler, and Doug Staiger)
In the 2011–12 school year, the Newark Public School district (NPS) launched a set of educational reforms supported by a gift from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. Using data from 2008–09 through 2015–16, the authors evaluate the change in Newark students’ achievement growth relative to similar students and schools elsewhere in New Jersey. They measure achievement growth using a “value-added” model, controlling for prior achievement, demographics, and peer characteristics. By the fifth year of reform, Newark saw statistically significant gains in English language arts (ELA) achievement growth and no significant change in math achievement growth. Perhaps because of the disruptive nature of the reforms, growth declined initially before rebounding in later years. Much of the improvement was attributed to shifting enrollment from lower- to higher-growth district and charter schools.
Teacher and Teaching Quality
An experimental evaluation of three teacher quality measures: Value-added, classroom observations, and student surveys. (with Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Tom Kane, and Doug Staiger)
Nearly every state evaluates teacher performance using multiple measures, but evidence has largely shown that only one such measure—teachers’ effects on student achievement (i.e., value-added)—captures teachers’ causal effects. We conducted a random assignment experiment in 66 fourth- and fifth-grade mathematics classrooms to evaluate the predictive validity of three measures of teacher performance: value-added, classroom observations, and student surveys. Combining our results with those from two previous random assignment experiments, we provide additional experimental evidence that value-added measures are unbiased predictors of teacher performance. Though results for the other two measures are less precise, we find that classroom observation scores are predictive of teachers’ performance after random assignment while student surveys are not. These results thus lend support to teacher evaluation systems that use value-added and classroom observations, but suggest practitioners should proceed with caution when considering student survey measures for teacher evaluation.
Connections between teachers' knowledge of students, instruction, and achievement outcomes. (with Heather Hill)
Published manuscript at the American Educational Research Journal.
Mathematical content knowledge and knowledge for teaching: Exploring their distinguishability and contribution to student learning. (with Charalambos Charalambous and Heather Hill)
Published manuscript at the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education.
Relationships between observations of elementary mathematics instruction and student achievement. (with Katie Lynch and David Blazar)
Published manuscript at the American Journal of Education.
Teacher characteristics and student learning in mathematics: A comprehensive assessment. (with Heather Hill and Charalambos Charalambous)
Published manuscript at Educational Policy.
Teacher mathematical knowledge, instructional quality, and student outcomes: A multilevel quantile mediation analysis. (with Ben Kelcey, Heather Hill, and Dan McGinn)
Published manuscript at School Effectiveness and School Improvement.