Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Graduates from for-profit online schools fare poorly in the job market

Employers looking at applicants with bachelor's degrees in business are 22 percent less likely to call back graduates from for-profit online schools than those from non-selective public institutions, according to a new study comparing employer perceptions of public and for-profit institutions of higher education.

"These online, for-profit colleges have been responsible for 21 percent of the growth in all bachelor's degrees and 33 percent of the growth in bachelor's degrees in business over the last decade," write David J. Deming, Noam Yuchtman, Amira Abulafi, Claudia Goldin, and Lawrence F. Katz, authors of The Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market: An Experimental Study (NBER Working Paper No. 20528). "Yet it is precisely the bachelor's degrees granted by the fastest-growing set of institutions that are associated with the worst callback outcomes for jobs requiring a bachelor's degree."

Between April and November 2014, the researchers used a large employment website to send 10,492 hypothetical résumés to employers posting business and healthcare-related openings in five major cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area. For business positions requiring a bachelor's degree, the researchers sent four otherwise identical résumés for each position: two from local public universities varying by selectivity, one from a local for-profit institution and one from a national, online, for-profit school. The authors took an analogous approach in applying to business jobs not requiring a bachelor's degree and to healthcare sector positions. Of all résumés sent to job openings, 8.2 percent received a callback.

The rate of callbacks depended on the type of job being offered. For example, the preference for graduates of public universities over for-profits was clear for business job openings requiring a bachelor's degree. On average, 8.5 percent of applicants with a degree from a public institution received callbacks, in contrast to only about 6.3 percent of applicants with degrees from online for-profit schools. There was some variation among the for-profit schools, too, with employers preferring locally operated for-profit schools (7.8 percent callback rate) to the online for-profits.

For business job openings not requiring a bachelor's degree, there was no statistically significant difference by sector of postsecondary credential, and less than one percentage point difference for online for-profit bachelor's degree-holders relative to those with no postsecondary degree.

Employers offering jobs in the healthcare sector not requiring a certificate were 57 percent less likely to call back applicants with a certificate from a for-profit school than from a community college. For health jobs that did not require a credential, 8.9 percent of applicants with a public certificate got callbacks, compared with 4.2 percent of those with a for-profit certificate and 5.9 percent for those with no postsecondary degree. For jobs requiring a certificate, public certificates modestly outperformed for-profit ones, 5.8 percent to 4.9 percent.

The study found that that having a B.A. degree from a selective public university did not generate more callbacks, on average, than a degree from a non-selective public school. In fact, for low-paid business vacancies, the callback rate was modestly lower for the group with degrees from selective institutions. But for high-paid jobs, it was significantly higher. The authors conclude this indicates that "employers value both college quality and the likelihood of a successful match when contacting job applicants."

"Because yearly tuition at a for-profit college typically greatly exceeds that at a public university and for-profit degrees seem to be less valued by employers, the for-profit degree appears to be the less attractive investment," according to the authors. They note, however, that public colleges are often overcrowded and that for-profits may be able to more rapidly move into expanding fields not well-served by public institutions. In that case, the most appropriate comparison would be between a for-profit credential and no post-secondary credential. The study findings, however, provide little evidence that obtaining a for-profit credential will improve the job prospects of workers who would otherwise not attend college at all.

--Laurent Belsie

Monday, March 2, 2015

Access to 4-year public colleges substantially increases degree completion rates, particularly for low-income students

The relatively low degree completion rate of U.S. college students has prompted debate over the extent to which the problem is attributable to the students or to their choice of colleges.  Estimating the impact of initial college choice is confounded by the non-random nature of college selection.

This study solves this selection problem by studying the universe of SAT-takers in the state of Georgia, where minimum SAT scores required for admission to the four-year public college sector generate exogenous variation in initial college choice.  Regression discontinuity estimates comparing the relatively low-skilled students just above and below this minimum threshold show that access to this sector increases enrollment in four-year colleges, largely by diverting students from two-year community colleges.  

Most importantly, access to four-year public colleges substantially increases bachelor's degree completion rates, particularly for low-income students.  Conditional on a student's own academic skill, the institutional completion rate of his initial college explains a large fraction of his own probability of completion.  Consistent with prior research on college quality and the two-year college penalty, these results may explain part of the labor market return to college quality.

Teachers' Pay for Performance in the Long-Run: Effects on Students

The long term effect of teachers' pay for performance is of particular interest, as critics of these schemes claim that they encourage teaching to the test or orchestrated cheating by teachers and schools.  

This paper examines the effect of teachers' pay for performance on

a)long term human capital outcomes, in particular attainment and quality of higher education, and 
b) labor market outcomes at adulthood, in particular employment and earnings.  

The study is based on an experiment conducted a decade and a half ago in Israel.

Treated students are 4.3 percentage points more likely to enroll in a university and to complete an additional 0.17 years of university schooling, a 60 percent increase relative to the control group mean.  These gains are mediated by overall improvements in the high school matriculation outcomes due to the teachers' intervention at 12th grade.  

The pay scheme led also to a significant 7 percent increase in annual earnings, to a 2 percent reduction in claims for unemployment benefits, and a 1 percent decline in eligibility for the government disability payment.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Teacher prejudices put girls off math, science

Women are vastly underrepresented in the fields of computer science, engineering, and mathematics. But less clear are the trajectories -- academic and otherwise -- that lead young women toward other professions. Higher education has already opened the door to equal opportunities for women and minorities in the U.S. -- so is it possible that elementary school, as a new Tel Aviv University study suggests, is the critical juncture at which girls are discouraged from pursuing science and mathematics?

New research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that elementary school teachers' unconscious biases significantly influence female students' academic choices later on. According to researchers Dr. Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and an instructor at TAU's Berglas School of Economics, and Prof. Victor Lavy, a professor at Hebrew University and University of Warwick in England, the classroom teacher's unwitting prejudice is a key factor explaining the divergence of boys' and girls' academic preferences.

"It isn't an issue of discrimination but of unconscious discouragement," said Dr. Sand. "This discouragement, however, has implications. The track to computer science and engineering fields, which report some of the highest salaries, tapers off in elementary school."

Taking the gender test

The research was carried out on three groups of students in Israel from sixth grade through the end of high school. The students were given two exams, the first graded by objective scorers who did not know their names and the second by instructors who did know them. In math, the girls outscored the boys in the test that was scored anonymously, but when graded by teachers who were familiar with their names, the boys outscored the girls. The effect was not the same for tests in non-math or science-related subjects.

The researchers concluded that, in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys' skills and underestimated the girls' abilities, and that this had long-term implications for students' attitudes toward these subjects.

Opting out

"When the same students reached junior high and high school, we examined their performances in matriculation exams ('Bagrut' in Hebrew)," said Dr. Sand. "The boys who had been encouraged when they were younger performed significantly better than their female counterparts, though the latter had objectively scored higher at a younger age."

The researchers also monitored the advanced math and science courses that students chose to take in high school, concluding that the girls who had been discouraged by their elementary school teachers were much less likely than the boys to opt for advanced courses.

"If teachers take into account these effects, it could lead to a reduction of the gender gap in achievement, especially in science and math," said Dr. Sand. "It is clear how important encouragement is for both boys and girls in all their subjects. Teachers play a critical role in lowering and raising the confidence levels of their students, which has serious implications for their futures."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

WWC Review of a Recent Study of Full-Day vs. Part-Day Preschool

What is the study about?
This study examined whether children enrolled in a full-day preschool program scored higher on school readiness measures and had higher attendance rates than children who attended the same schools but participated in the part-day preschool program. The programs were part of an expansion and update of the Child-Parent Center (CPC) Education Program, a long-standing school-based program that combines comprehensive education and family services and had previously been implemented as a part-day program only. This study focused on 11 schools in Chicago that implemented both the full-day and part-day updated versions of the CPC programs.

What did the study report?
The authors reported that children participating in a full-day program scored higher than children in a part-day program, by a statistically significant margin, on four of the six school readiness indicators from the standardized Teaching Strategies GOLD Assessment System, including language, math, social-emotional development, and physical health. The authors also reported statistically significant improvements in attendance.

How does the WWC rate this study?
The study uses a quasi-experimental design to compare the performance of children in the intervention (full-day) and comparison (part-day) groups. However, in the main analysis, groups were not equivalent at the start of the intervention. When children were selected to participate in the full-day program, 4-year-olds were given priority over 3-year-olds, so the groups, on average, are not equivalent. Therefore, because the groups in this main analysis are not equivalent, the study does not meet WWC group design standards.

In addition to the main analysis, the authors present analyses based on subgroups of children of similar age. These analyses could meet WWC group design standards with reservations if the groups were comparable at baseline. However, the authors did not present equivalence information. Therefore, because the main analysis comparing 4 year-olds in full-day kindergarten and 3 year-olds in the part-day program does not meet WWC group design standards, the WWC will not request information to determine the rating for analyses of age-specific subgroups.

Reynolds, A. J., Richardson, B. A., Hayakawa, M., Lease, E. M., Warner-Richter, M., Englund, M. M., Ou, S. R., & Sullivan, M. (2014). Association of a full-day vs part-day preschool intervention with school readiness, attendance, and parent involvement. JAMA, 312(20), 2126–2134. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.15376

The WWC conducts quick reviews of studies that have received significant media attention. This study was mentioned in Bloomberg, The Chicago Sun Times, Education Week, The Huffington Post, Minnesota Daily, and US News.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

$8.38 Billion US Market for PreK-12 Educational Software and Digital Content

The Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN) of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry, today released its “2014 U.S. Education Technology Industry Market: PreK-12 Report.”

The report values the overall PreK-12 non-hardware education technology market at $8.38 billion, compared to last year’s valuation of $7.9 billion.

Data in the report was collected directly from 144 service providers and publishers to show a supply-side view of the market not available through traditional customer data collection techniques. This report contains longitudinal data from the three years of the study and shows key trends within the industry.

  • The largest market segment was Content ($3.3B), with Reading/ Language Arts making up the largest Content category, followed by Mathematics/ Arithmetic.
  • The Instructional Support segment was almost as large ($3.2B). Testing and Assessment ($2.5B) was the largest single category of any market segment.

Revenues from Online Courses grew 320 percent with several significant companies reporting revenues in this category for the first time. Testing and Assessment ($2.5B) was the largest single category of any market segment.

2014 Trends
  • The overall market for software and digital resources increased 5.1% from $7.97B in 2011—2012 to $8.38B in 2012-2013.
  • Enterprise Management Systems were up 40%, returning to 2010-11 levels.
  • Instructional Support was down 2.4% in spite of an almost 16% rise in Testing and Assessment.
  • Content revenue was down 1.9% with decreases in every area except Online Courses.
  • Testing and Assessment was the largest single category at $2.5B.

“The rapid growth of the testing and assessment market will slow, but remain an important area of investment in school districts and states. Digital assessments and interest in personalized learning contribute to this growing market,” said CS4Ed president John Richards, Ph.D., the principal author of the report. “There was a substantial investment in infrastructure. We attribute this to increased hardware in schools from district investment, BYOD and preparation for digital common core assessments."

WWC Review of a Recent "Tools of the Mind" Study

This study examined whether the Tools of the Mind program increased academic achievement, cognitive flexibility, working memory, attention control, and cognitive processing speed for kindergarten students. Tools of the Mind is a pedagogical approach that emphasizes teacher-led interactions between classmates. Tools of the Mind is designed based on the idea that students’ executive function, or self-regulation, is the main mechanism by which they can increase learning.
The study authors randomized 79 classrooms to implement either Tools of the Mind for 2 years or to act as a comparison group that did not use any programs similar to Tools of the Mind. Up to six students per class were assessed on the outcome measures at the beginning of the kindergarten year (baseline), at the end of the kindergarten year, and at the beginning of first grade.

The study examined math skills, reading and vocabulary skills, and general reasoning. In addition, the study examined response accuracy and response time for students on three tasks that measure cognitive flexibility, or the ability to perform multiple cognitive duties at the same time. Lastly, the study examined working memory (the number of digits that children could repeat after hearing them from an assessor), attention control (identifying the location of a dot on a computer screen after neutral or emotion pictures were displayed quickly), and cognitive processing speed (time to complete tasks such as naming the colors of blocks in order).

What did the study report?
The study reported that students who were exposed to Tools of the Mind had improved math skills, response time on cognitive flexibility tasks, working memory, and cognitive processing speed at the end of kindergarten relative to the comparison students. Students who were exposed to Tools of the Mind in kindergarten also had higher reading skills in the fall of first grade than students in the comparison group.

How does the WWC rate this study?
Some students in the analytic sample joined the study after the random assignment of classrooms to conditions had occurred. As a result, there were some students in the analytic sample who were not effectively randomly assigned to the treatment or comparison groups. Therefore, the study cannot meet WWC standards without reservations. The study can meet WWC standards with reservations if the authors provide additional information to determine whether the intervention and comparison groups are similar at baseline. A forthcoming review will report more fully on the study’s results.

Citation: Blair, C., & Raver C. C. (2014). Closing the achievement gap through modification of neurocognitive and neuroendocrine function: Results from a cluster randomized controlled trial of an innovative approach to the education of children in kindergarten. PloS ONE, 9(11), e112393. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112393

The WWC conducts quick reviews of studies that have received significant media attention. This study was mentioned in Education Week, Chalkbeat, The Huffington Post, and Reuters.