Monday, October 5, 2015

Gap in bachelor's attainment rates between students who start at two-year versus four-year institutions is explained by differences in peers

Students starting at a two-year college are much less likely to graduate with a college degree than similar students who start at a four-year college but the sources of this attainment gap are largely unexplained.  I

This paper investigates the attainment consequences of sector choice and peer quality among over 3 million recent high school graduates.  This analysis is enabled by data on all PSAT test-takers between 2004 and 2006 from which the authors develop a novel measure of peer ability for most two-year and four-year colleges in the United States- the average PSAT of enrolled students.  

The paper documents substantial variation in average peer quality at two-year colleges across and within states and non-trivial overlap across sectors, neither of which has previously been documented.  

The ppaer finds that half the gap in bachelor's attainment rates between students who start at two-year versus four-year institutions is explained by differences in peers, leaving room for structural barriers to transferring between institutions to also play an important role.  

Also, having better peers is associated with higher attainment in both sectors, though its effects are quite a bit larger in the four-year sector.  Thus, the allocation of students between and within sectors, some of which is driven by state policy decisions, has important consequences for the educational attainment of the nation's workforce.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Low response found to incentive program for high-performing teachers to transfer to low-performing schools

This paper examines behavioral responses to an incentive program that offers high-performing teachers in ten school districts across the country $20,000 to transfer into the district's hardest-to-staff schools. The paper discusses behavioral responses to the program on high-performing teachers’ willingness to transfer and the effect of the transfer offer on the internal dynamics of the receiving schools.

The paper reports  low take-up rates among the 1,514 high-performing teachers who were offered the incentive, with minimal sorting on observable characteristics.

Within the new schools, transfer teachers were less likely than their counterparts in a randomized control group to require mentoring and more likely to provide mentoring themselves. No significant differences occurred in school climate, collegiality, or the way in which students were assigned to teachers, but evidence indicates that principals may have strategically assigned existing teachers to grades in both treatment and control schools in response to the quality of the incoming teachers.

Teacher Evaluation Improves School Performance, Especially in Higher-aAchieving and Lower-Poverty Schools

Chicago Public Schools initiated the Excellence in Teaching Project, a teacher evaluation program designed to increase student learning by improving classroom instruction through structured principal–teacher dialogue. The pilot began in forty-four elementary schools in 2008–09 (cohort 1) and scaled up to include an additional forty-eight elementary schools in 2009–10 (cohort 2).

Leveraging the experimental design of the rollout, cohort 1 schools performed better in reading and math than cohort 2 schools at the end of the first year, though the math effects are not statistically significant.

This paper reports thatthe initial improvement for cohort 1 schools remains even after cohort 2 schools adopted the program. Moreover, the pilot differentially impacted schools with different characteristics. Higher-achieving and lower-poverty schools were the primary beneficiaries, suggesting the intervention was most successful in more advantaged schools.

Teacher Preparation Programs and Teacher Quality: No Real Difference Across Programs

This paper compares teacher preparation programs in Missouri based on the effectiveness of their graduates in the classroom. The differences in effectiveness between teachers from different preparation programs are much smaller than has been suggested in previous work. In fact, virtually all of the variation in teacher effectiveness comes from within-program differences between teachers. Prior research has overstated differences in teacher performance across preparation programs by failing to properly account for teacher sampling.

Teacher Layoffs, Teacher Quality, and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Discretionary Layoff Policy

Layoffs, as painful as they are, should fall on the least-effective teachers when layoffs are absolutely unavoidable.
—Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, 22 March 2011
Most teacher layoffs during the Great Recession were implemented following inverse-seniority policies. This paper examines the implementation of a discretionary layoff policy in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Administrators did not uniformly lay off the most or least senior teachers but instead selected teachers who were previously retired, late-hired, unlicensed, low-performing, or nontenured. 

The author of the paper estimates the differential effects of teacher layoffs on student achievement based on teacher seniority and effectiveness. Mathematics achievement in grades that lost an effective teacher, as measured by principal evaluations or value-added scores, decreased 0.05 to 0.11 standard deviations more than in grades that lost an ineffective teacher. In contrast, teacher seniority has limited predictive power on the effects of layoffs. Simulation analyses show that the district selected teachers who were, on average, less effective than those teachers identified under an inverse-seniority policy.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Career Paths of Beginning Public School Teachers

To learn about the early career patterns of beginning teachers, NCES undertook the BTLS, which is a nationally representative longitudinal study of public school teachers who began teaching in 2007 or 2008. The BTLS provides researchers with the opportunity to examine the career paths of beginning teachers as well as factors that may influence those paths. 

Findings from the report include the following:

•    About 155,600 public school teachers began their careers in 2007–08 and about three quarters of these teachers taught all 5 years of the study (77 percent). Among those who taught all 5 years, about three-fifths taught in the same school during this time (62 percent). Among the 23 percent of teachers who did not teach all 5 years of the study, about one quarter had returned to teaching (26 percent) and about one-third are expected to return (32 percent).

•    Having a mentor and participating in an induction program were related to teacher retention. A larger percentage of teachers who were assigned a mentor during their first year of teaching taught all 5 years of the study (80 percent) compared to those who were not assigned a mentor (64 percent). Eighty percent of beginning teachers who participated in an induction program taught all 5 years and 69 percent of those who did not participate in such a program taught all 5 years.

•    The percentage of beginning teachers who taught all 5 years was smaller for teachers with base salaries less than $40,000 during their most recent year of teaching (68 percent) than for teachers whose base salar
ies were $40,000 or more during their most recent year of teaching (85 percent; figure 8).

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Children who identify with math get higher scores

How strongly children identify with math (their math "self-concept") can be used to predict how high they will score on a standardized test of math achievement, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Washington.

The study, published in the October 2015 issue of the journal Learning and Instruction, is the first to demonstrate a link between students' subconscious math self-concepts and their actual math achievement scores.

The study also measured the strength of students' stereotype that "math is for boys" and found that, for girls, the stronger this subconscious stereotype, the weaker the individual child's math self-concept.

"Our results show that stereotypes are related to how children think of themselves as math learners, which, in turn, is related to how well they do on an actual math test," said lead author Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS).

With co-author Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS, Cvencek examined math-gender stereotypes, math self-concepts and math scores in 300 children (an even mix of boys and girls) in grades 1, 3, and 5 in Singapore.

The researchers chose Singapore, because it -- and other Asian countries including Japan and China -- is consistently ranked as one of the top nations in the world for math achievement among girls and boys.

The researchers focused on a high-achieving culture where there aren't gender differences in math ability, so that they could see which psychological factors have a role in student performance.

"We were fascinated to find that elementary-school children have subconscious thoughts about whether or not they are a math person," Meltzoff said. "They have an implicit identity of 'me is math' or 'me is not math.' This self-concept matters because it is correlated with actual behavior, such as math achievement."

At the beginning of the children's school year, the researchers led each child through an assortment of tasks measuring the students' beliefs about math-gender stereotypes ("math is for boys") and math-self concepts ("math is for me").

A Child Implicit Association Test (IAT) examined the children's subconscious beliefs. The IAT probes self-concepts, stereotypes and other attitudes that people may not know they have. Adult versions of IAT reveal hidden beliefs about gender, race, religion and other topics.

The researchers also used self-reported tasks to measure the children's explicit beliefs. These tasks involved the children looking at a series of drawings of boys and girls and then answering questions such as how much the characters in the drawings liked math.

Then, at the end of the school year, the students took a standardized math achievement test administered by their teachers.

Girls and boys performed well on the math test and had similar scores. But when the researchers factored in math-gender stereotype and math self-concept beliefs, they discovered that the children's implicit -- but not explicit -- beliefs affected math scores.

In both genders, students with stronger implicit math self-concepts did better on the math test. Stronger implicit math-gender stereotypes correlated with stronger math self-concepts for boys, but weaker math self-concepts for girls.

"We've found that there are implicit psychological factors, such as students' beliefs about math, that can weaken students' identification with math and also impair their math performance," Cvencek said.

And since the factors are implicit and not detectable by self-report measures, this means they can affect student performance without students' being aware of them.

Previously, Cvencek and Meltzoff found that as early as second grade children in the U.S. begin to express the cultural stereotype that "math is for boys, not for girls," which may discourage girls from pursuing math.

The researchers plan to use the findings to design ways to identify implicit math self-concepts as they emerge early in elementary school and create interventions to change beliefs that could be detrimental to math performance.

"We have high hopes for the usefulness of our tests," Cvencek said. "We think it could be useful for teachers and parents to know whether their young child identifies positively or negatively with math. If we can boost children's math self-concepts early in development, this may also help boost their actual math achievement and interest in the discipline. We plan to test this."