Curry School of Education Research Lectureship Series Fall 2010

Spring 2010 talks were sponsored by the Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) Program [1].  For more information about this program or to receive the papers presented, please contact [email protected]

The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations

Friday, September 24: Sean Reardon

View Dr. Reardon's slides here

In this paper, I examine whether and how the relationship between family socioeconomic characteristics and academic achievement has changed during the last fifty years. In particular, I investigate the extent to which the rising income inequality of the last four decades has been paralleled by a similar increase in the income-achievement gradient. As the income gap between high- and low-income families has widened, has the achievement gap between children in high- and low-income families also widened? The answer, in brief, is yes. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 50 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income-achievement gap has been growing steadily for at least fifty years, though the data are less certain for cohorts of children born before 1970. In addition to the key finding that the income-achievement gap appears to have widened substantially, there are a number of other important findings.

Sean Reardon is Associate Professor of Education and (by courtesy) Sociology at Stanford University, specializing in issues of educational and social inequality, the causes, patterns, and consequences of residential and school segregation, and applied statistical methods for educational research. His recent research investigates the relationships among income inequality, residential and school segregation patterns, and academic achievement gaps. He teaches graduate courses in applied statistical methods, with a particular emphasis on the application of experimental and quasi-experimental methods to the investigation of issues of educational policy and practice. Sean received his doctorate in education in 1997 from Harvard University. He has been a recipient of a William T. Grant Foundation Scholar Award, a Carnegie Scholar Award, and a National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellow.

Who Benefits from KIPP?

Friday, October 22: Sue Dynarski

Hear Dr. Dynarski's lecture and view her slides here.

Charter schools run by the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) are emblematic of the No Excuses approach to public education. These schools feature a long school day, an extended school year, selective teacher hiring, strict behavior norms and a focus on traditional reading and math skills. We use applicant lotteries to evaluate the impact of KIPP Academy Lynn, a KIPP school that is mostly Hispanic and has a high concentration of limited English proficiency (LEP) and special education students, groups that critics have argued are served poorly by charter schools. The results show overall achievement gains of 0.35 standard deviations in math and 0.12 standard deviations in reading for each year spent at KIPP Lynn. Boys and girls realize similar math gains, while reading gains are largest for boys. LEP students, special education students, and those with low baseline test scores bene t more from time spent at KIPP than do other students. The average reading gains are driven almost completely by special education and LEP students, whose reading scores rise by roughly 0.35 standard deviations for each year spent at KIPP Lynn.

Susan Dynarski is an Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. She is a Faculty Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and has been a Visiting Fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Princeton University. She is an editor of The Journal of Labor Economics and Education Finance and Policy.

Information and Employee Evaluation: Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in Public Schools

Friday, November 12: Jonah Rockoff
In the Curry Library Innovation Commons (CLIC), 3rd Floor of Ruffner Hall

Hear Dr. Rockoff's Presentation

The evidence that productivity varies greatly across teachers has given rise to the idea that student achievement data should be included in performance evaluation, despite limited empirical evidence on subjective evaluation or the use of objective performance measures in U.S. public schools. In this paper, we examine the results of a randomized pilot program in which school principals were provided with estimates of the performance of individual teachers in raising their students’ test scores in math and English. Our analysis establishes several facts consistent with a simple “normal learning” model of employee evaluation in the presence of imperfect information. First, objective teacher performance estimates based on student data and principals’ prior beliefs are positively correlated, and the strength of this relationship rises with the precision of the objective estimates and subjective priors. Second, principals who are provided with objective performance data incorporate this information into their posterior beliefs, and do so to a greater extent when the data are more precise and when their priors are less precise. Moreover, after the provision of performance data, the probability of job separation rises for teachers with low performance estimates, and, in line with this change in attrition patterns, student achievement exhibits small improvements the following year. These results strongly suggest that objective performance data provides useful information to principals in constructing performance evaluations and using these evaluations to improve productivity.

Jonah E. Rockoff is Sidney Taurel Associate Professor of Business at the Columbia Graduate School of Business and a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Professor Rockoff’s interests center on local public finance and the economics of education. He has done research on the determinants of property taxation and expenditure in local public school districts, the impact of teachers and teacher certification on student achievement, and measuring the effectiveness of educational policies such as charter schools, school accountability systems, and teacher mentoring programs. His current work focuses on pre-employment indicators of effective teachers, the characteristics of effective school principals, and how information on teacher performance impacts school personnel decisions. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University in 2004 and a B.A. in Economics from Amherst College.

Current and Future Challenges in School-Based Prevention

Friday, December 3: Mark Greenberg

Hear Dr. Greenberg's Presentation

Research demonstrates that social emotional learning programs can improve children’s behavioral functioning as well as cognitive and academic outcomes. Yet, where is the current state of the field and what issues and questions might inform the next decade of research? I will discuss areas of Type 1 and Type 2 research that will be necessary to both understand how prevention programs have an impact on child outcomes as well as where innovations might occur that would improved programs as well as the sustainability and diffusion of school-based prevention.

Mark Greenberg, Ph.D. holds The Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research in Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development. He is the Director of the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development. He is a senior investigator on numerous national and international research projects including Fast Track, PROSPER, The Family Life Project, REDI, and PATHS to Success. He is the author of more than 200 journal articles and book chapters on developmental psychopathology, well-being, and the effects of prevention efforts on children and families. He received the Research Scientist Award from the Society for Prevention Research in 2002 and the Society for Child Development Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children Award in 2009. One of his current interests is how to help nurture awareness and compassion in our society.


Additional Content

Former Lecturers

Spring 2011

Chris Hulleman
Jessaca Spybrook
Richard Lerner