Education Policy Seminar Series - Fall 2015

For the current Education Policy Seminar Series, please visit our website.

Fall 2015

Much Ado About Nothing? Evidence Suggests No Adverse Effects of Payday Lending on Military Members

Bill Skimmyhorn, Assistant Professor of Economics, Deputy Director OEMA at West Point
Friday September 25th 2015, 10:00-11:30 AM
This talk is co-hosted by the Batten School Faculty Research Series

Bio: William Skimmyhorn is an Assistant Professor of Economics and the Deputy Director of the Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis. He earned a B.S. in Economics at West Point in 1997, an M.A. in International Policy Studies and an M.S. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford in 2006, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2012. Prior to his current position he has served in a variety of command and staff positions in the U.S., Korea, Bosnia, Italy, and Afghanistan. His primary research interests are household finance, human capital development, behavioral economics, and the economics of national security.

Abstract: We evaluate the effect that payday loan access has on credit and labor market outcomes of individuals in the U.S. Army.  Along with the conditional random assignment of service members to different locations, we employ three identification strategies using cross-sectional variation in state policies, within-term variation in payday lending access over time, and difference-in-difference analysis using the national Military Lending Act.  We find few adverse effects of payday loan access on service members when using any of these methods even when we examine dozens of subsamples that explore potential differential treatment effects.


The Potential for MOOCs to Increase Access to STEM Education: Evidence from A New Computer Science Degree Program

Joshua Goodman, Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University
Monday October 26th 2015, 12:30-2:00 PM

Bio: Joshua S. Goodman, Associate Professor of Public Policy, studies the economics of education. He has explored the impact of merit aid on college choice, the impact of college quality on degree completion, and the impact of various math coursework interventions on the long-run outcomes of students. Goodman received a B.A. in physics from Harvard University, an M.Phil. in education from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University. Prior to starting his Ph.D., he was a public high school math teacher in Watertown, MA.

Abstract: The rapid rise of online higher education has been concentrated in degree programs and courses of unclear quality and labor market return, which may partly explain the failure of online models to widely transform the sector. We study Georgia Tech's Online M.S. in Computer Science (OMSCS), the first fully online program offered by a highly ranked department, priced much lower than its on-campus counterpart (MSCS), and culminating in a degree indistinguishable from its on-campus equivalent. Interestingly, there is nearly no overlap between the applicant pools to the two programs, with the online program largely attracting mid-career Americans and the on-campus program largely attracting recent college graduates from India and China. A regression discontinuity design around an admissions threshold shows that access to OMSCS increases the amount of formal education pursued, implying the program has no close substitutes in the current higher education market. These two pieces of evidence suggest OMSCS meets previously unmet demand among Americans for high quality, flexible, mid-career training. Online technology may be well-suited to developing innovative higher education options for those whose current jobs prevent enrollment in traditional, time-constrained coursework.


Shifting College Majors in Response to Advanced Placement Exam Scores

Jonathan Smith, Policy Research Scientist at College Board
Monday November 2nd 2015, 12:30-2:00 PM

Bio: Dr. Jonathan Smith is a policy research scientist at College Board. His research focuses on the behavioral and institutional factors that determine how students choose colleges and the consequences of those decisions. His research is published in leading economics, policy, and education journals and he teaches at George Washington University.  He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Boston University.

Abstract: Mapping continuous raw score data from millions of Advanced Placement (AP) examinations onto the 1 to 5 integer scoring scale, we apply a regression discontinuity design to understand how students’ choice of college major is impacted by earning a higher scale score.  We find that attaining higher scores, particularly on humanities and social sciences exams, increases the probability that a student will major in that exam subject by up to 27%, though, typically closer to 5%.  Importantly, we estimate that a substantial portion of the overall effect is driven by behavioral responses to the positive signal of earning a higher integer score, rather than an increase in college credits awarded from that higher score.  

Do the Cheated Ever Prosper? The Long-Run Effects of Test-Score Manipulation by Teachers on Student Outcomes

Tim R. Sass, Professor, Department of Economics at Georgia State University
Monday November 16th 2015, 12:30-2:00 PM

Bio: Tim Sass is  a Distinguished University Professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.  He is also a senior researcher with the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER).  Before coming to Georgia State in 2011, he was the Charles and Joan Haworth Professor of Labor Economics at Florida State University. His primary fields of interest are the economics of education, applied microeconomics, industrial organization and public choice.  His current research focuses on the effects of educational policies on student achievement and educational attainment.  In recent work he has analyzed charter schools, classroom peer effects, National Board certification of teachers, school accountability, teacher training and teacher mobility.

Abstract: One of the many concerns over high-stakes testing is the incentive for teachers to alter test scores by providing answers to students during a test or correcting the answers of their students after the test is taken.  Indeed a number of cases of test-score manipulation by teachers have been uncovered throughout the country in recent years.  While recent research has developed methods for detecting “cheating” by teachers, little is known about how the falsification of test scores impacts students.  Using a 10-year panel of individual-level data on students and teachers from an urban school district where test scores were manipulated, we investigate the effects of teacher cheating on subsequent student achievement, attendance, behavior and educational attainment.  In math we find that test scores drop below expected levels in the first year post-cheating year, but rebound thereafter.  For reading and ELA, however, we uncover relatively robust negative effects of being cheated on student achievement for at least three years.  The estimated effects are at least as great as having a rookie teacher, rather than a teacher with five or more years of experience.  We also find some evidence that cheated middle-school students may be more likely to drop out of high school. 

Understanding Absenteeism in Elementary School

Amy Claessens, Assistant Professor at Chicago Harris, University of Chicago
Monday December 7th 2015, 12:30-2:00 PM

Bio: Amy Claessens, an assistant professor at Chicago Harris, studies education, child development, and public policy. Her work investigates how policies and programs influence child development and how early achievement and socioemotional skills relate to subsequent life outcomes. Claessens's work uses administrative or large-scale longitudinal data and utilizes both quantitative and qualitative techniques.

Claessens has investigated a wide-range of issues surrounding child development and public policy including an experimental work support program and how achievement and socioemotional skills at school entry relate to later school achievement. This research on school readiness was featured in the New York Times. Much of Claessens's research examines how out-of-home contexts such as child care, preschool, and school influence child well being. Her dissertation, 'The Development and Determinants of Academic and Socioemotional Skills in Middle Childhood,' examined how achievement and socioemotional skills develop and interrelate over the course of elementary school and how school-age child care experiences influenced this development. Claessens received a Child Care Bureau Dissertation Research Scholar Grant to fund a portion of her dissertation. She also has examined school reform and school choice policies in the Chicago Public Schools. She has recently begun investigating early childhood policy in Australia in conjunction with the Australian Government, focusing on universal preschool and early child care experiences.

Claessens holds a PhD in human development and social policy from Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy. Prior to joining the faculty at the Harris School, Claessens was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Abstract: Chronic early absenteeism, often defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year in kindergarten through third grade, is a strong predictor of future academic outcomes including attendance and academic achievement (Chang  & Romero, 2008; Attendance Works, 2011). Further, children from low-income families are more likely to be chronically absent from school and, importantly, evidence indicates that the negative effects of chronic absenteeism are larger for these students (Balfanz & Byrnes 2012). Despite the importance of regular attendance in elementary school for concurrent and later school outcomes, we know little about the contextual factors that influence school attendance and absenteeism among elementary school children. This talk aims to begin to address this gap in the research.  We analyze qualitative interview data for a sample of elementary school children who were chronically absent from school during the 2011-2012 school year. In total, we interviewed 51 students and their parents or primary caregivers in 2012-2013. Our sample was drawn from a larger population of chronically absent students who were receiving services through the Check and Connect Monitoring and Mentoring Program in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). We present the preliminary findings from the intervention as well as the qualitative analysis. The qualitative interviews covered a wide range of topics about home and school experiences. Drawing on these interviews, we address the following research questions: How do chronically absent students and their parents describe school attendance and school absences? What reasons do children and their families provide for missing school?


Additional Content

Contact Us:

PO Box 400879
Charlottesville, VA 22904
[email protected]


Past Speakers

**recorded talk available online

Fall 2010

Spring 2011

Fall 2011

Spring 2012

Fall 2012

Spring 2013

Fall 2013 **

Spring 2014**

Fall 2014**

Spring 2015