Education Policy Seminar Series - Fall 2017

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

Fall 2017


Learning Job Skills from Colleagues at Work: Evidence from a Field Experiment Using Teacher Performance Data

Eric Taylor, Assistant Professor, Harvard University
Monday September 11th 2017, 11:00-12:30 PM
This talk is available online

Bio: Eric Taylor is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Eric studies the economics of education, with a particular interest in employer-employee interactions between schools and teachers—hiring and turnover, job design, training, performance evaluation. His work has been published in the American Economic Review, Journal of Human Resources, and Journal of Public Economics; and featured in Slate, Time, The Washington Post, and Education Week. Eric was a Spencer Dissertation Fellow in 2014, and was recognized for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring by the Stanford GSE in 2013.

Abstract: We study on-the-job learning among classroom teachers, especially learning skills from coworkers. Using data from a field experiment, we document meaningful improvements in teacher job performance when high- and low-skilled teachers working at the same school are paired and asked to work together on improving their skills. Pairs are matched on specific skills measured in prior evaluations. Each pair includes a target teacher who scores low in one or more of nineteen skills, and a partner who scores high in (many of) the target teacher’s deficient skills. Student test scores improved by 0.12 standard deviations in the low-skilled target teachers’ classrooms. These improvements in teacher job performance persisted, and perhaps grew, in the year after treatment. Empirical tests suggest the improvements are likely the result of target teachers learning skills from their partner.


The Effects of School Turnaround Strategies in Massachusetts

John Papay, Assistant Professor, Brown University
Monday October 2nd 2017, 11-12:30 PM

Bio: John P. Papay is an Assistant Professor of Education and Economics at Brown University. His research focuses on teacher policy, the economics of education, and teacher labor markets. He has published on teacher improvement, teacher evaluation, teacher working conditions, teacher compensation, school improvement, high-stakes testing, and program evaluation methodology. His current work examines the conditions that support or constrain teacher professional growth. He is a Research Affiliate with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard University. A former high school history teacher, he earned his doctorate in Quantitative Policy Analysis from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Abstract: We study the impact of being identified as a low-performing school in need of improvement (Level 4) on school and student performance in Massachusetts. In Spring 2010, 35 schools in the state were identified as Level 4 based on their performance and improvement over the past four years. Identified schools received intensive support and increased accountability, and were eligible to apply for additional funding. We leverage two complementary but distinct sources of variation to estimate the impact of Level 4 identification using both difference-in-differences (using variation within-school over time) and regression-discontinuity designs (using variation within-time across schools). Using both approaches, we find quite large impacts on student achievement, on the order of 0.4 sd in mathematics after 4 years. Estimates suggest that these improvements resulted from improved human capital policies and improved performance of existing teachers.



The Academic Effects of Chronic Exposure to Neighborhood Violence

Amy Ellen Schwartz, Professor, Syracuse University
Friday October 20th 2017, 12:00-1:30 PM

Bio: Amy Ellen Schwartz is a Professor of Economics and Public Administration and International Affairs, and a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Policy Research. Amy is also the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Chair in Public Affairs, and Director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University. Her research interests span a broad range of issues in education policy, urban economics, and public finance. Previous work has considered infrastructure investment and economic growth; the impact of public interventions (such as housing investment, business improvement districts or charter schools) on property values; intergovernmental aid; and the consequences of education reform. Current projects include an investigation of student mobility; the impact of neighborhood crime on student performance; the link between neighborhoods, schools and child obesity; and the impact of housing vouchers on residential location decisions and children’s educational outcomes.

Professor Schwartz’s work has been published in a range of journals. Her research has been funded through grants from federal agencies, such as the Institute for Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and foundations, including the Spencer Foundation, Macarthur Foundation, and WT Grant Foundation. In 2009, she served as the President of the Association for Education Finance and Policy. Professor Schwartz is currently on the editorial board of Regional Science and Urban Economics and is the Editor of Education Finance and Policy. Amy received her Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University in 1989.

Abstract: We estimate the causal effect of repeated exposure to violent crime on test scores in New York City. We use two distinct empirical strategies; value-added models linking student performance on standardized exams to violent crimes on a student’s residential block, and a regression discontinuity approach that identifies the acute effect of an additional crime exposure within a one-week window. Exposure to violent crime reduces academic performance. Value added models suggest the average effect is very small; approximately -0.01 standard deviations in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. RD models suggest a larger effect, particularly among children previously exposed. The marginal acute effect is as large as -0.04 standard deviations for students with two or more prior exposures. Among these, it is even larger for black students, almost a 10th of a standard deviation. We provide credible causal evidence that repeated exposure to neighborhood violence harms test scores, and this negative effect increases with exposure.

Paper: Available online.



Increasing Economic Diversity at a Flagship University: Results from a Large-Scale, Randomized Trial

Sue Dynarski, Professor, University of Michigan
Friday October 27th 2017, 12:00-1:30 PM

Bio: Susan Dynarski is a professor of public policy, education and economics at the University of Michigan, where she holds appointments at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, School of Education, Department of Economics and Institute for Social Research and serves as co-director of the Education Policy Initiative. She is a faculty research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment. She is a nonresident senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. Dynarski earned an A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard, a Master of Public Policy from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT.

Dynarski has been a visiting fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Princeton University as well as an associate professor at Harvard University. She is an editor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, former editor of The Journal of Labor Economics and Education Finance and Policy, and is currently on the board of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. She has been elected to the boards of the Association for Public Policy and Management and the Association for Education Finance and Policy, and currently serves as president-elect at the Association for Education Finance and Policy. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators awarded her the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award for excellence in research on student aid.

Dynarski’s research focuses on the effectiveness of charter schools, the optimal design of financial aid, the price elasticity of private school attendance, the relationship between postsecondary schooling and labor market outcomes, and the effect of high school reforms on academic achievement and educational attainment.

Abstract: Low-income students are substantially less likely than higher-income students to attend a selective university. In part, this is due to differences in academic preparation. But even among students who are well-prepared for college, there are substantial income differences in the probability of attending a selective institution (Hoxby and Avery 2012). In Michigan, the pattern is similar. While one in four higher-income students attended a university at least as competitive as the University of Michigan, only one in seven similarly-achieving low-income students did so.

We test the effect of delivering concrete, well-timed, financial aid information about the state flagship, framed as a scholarship, to low-income, high-achieving students in Michigan. Students who received the information were more than twice as likely to apply and matriculate to the University of Michigan. Results from this study provide insight into relatively low-cost methods to reduce inequality in educational attainment between low-income and high-income students.


Partnering on Research to Improve Policy: Teacher Policy Research in Massachusetts.

Carrie Conaway, Chief Strategy and Research Officer, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Monday December 4th 2017, 11:00-12:30 PM
This talk is available online

Bio: Carrie Conaway is the chief strategy and research officer for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, with over 15 years of experience in improving systems through evidence. She leads the agency’s Office of Planning and Research, which helps the state and districts implement effective policy and programs and make effective resource use decisions to improve student outcomes.

She has served as the agency’s principal investigator on numerous evaluations of state education programs and policy and has published two peer-reviewed articles on connecting research to practice. She led the development of the state’s top-scoring, $250 million Race to the Top proposal and managed its implementation, as well as winning several other grants to support state research, evaluation, and data use initiatives. Her team also manages the agency’s strategic planning and implementation process and builds tools that help districts benchmark their performance and deploy their resources more effectively. In January 2017, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Board for Education Sciences. She is also president-elect of the Association for Education Finance and Policy.

Previously she was the deputy director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and an associate editor of the Bank’s flagship publication, Regional Review. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Oberlin College; a master’s degree in policy analysis and labor policy from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; and a master’s degree in sociology and social policy from Harvard University.

Abstract: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has partnered with the Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) on a series of studies related to educator policy in Massachusetts. This talk will highlight findings from several of the studies, focusing in particular on how teacher license types, teacher preparation programs, and gaps in access to effective teachers are correlated to later student outcomes. It will also cover how the partnership is structured and what factors have led to its success in informing state policy and practice.