Education Policy Seminar Series - Spring 2015

Spring 2015

Pell Grants as Performance-Based Aid? An Examination of Satisfactory Academic Progress Requirements for Community College Students

Judith Scott-Clayton, Assistant Professor of Economics and Education Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University
Monday February 2nd 2015, 12:30-2:00 PM 

Judith Scott-Clayton is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, a Senior Research Associate at the Community College Research Center, and a Faculty Research Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her research interests include labor economics, higher education policy, and causal methods. Her publications have examined complexity in student financial aid, college remediation and the validity of remedial placement exams, and the consequences of student employment. Scott-Clayton has testified to the U.S. Senate regarding financial aid policy, has written for the New York Times' Economix and Upshot blogs, and actively participates in policy discussions at the state and federal level. Scott-Clayton holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Harvard University.

Abstract: The Federal Pell Grant Program is the nation’s largest postsecondary grant program. While students’ initial eligibility for the Pell is based on financial need, renewal of the award is contingent on making satisfactory academic progress (SAP)—meeting minimum academic standards similar to those proposed in models of performance-based scholarships. Yet little is known about how many students are affected by failure to meet SAP standards, or how the policies shape student outcomes. In this talk, Professor Scott-Clayton will present evidence that SAP failure is a common occurrence for Pell recipients. She will present a conceptual model for thinking about the consequences of SAP, as well as implications for optimal policy design. Finally, using regression-discontinuity and difference-in-difference approaches, she will show preliminary results from an analysis of the impact of SAP failure for community college students. Consistent with theoretical predictions, the preliminary findings indicate that some students who fail SAP are discouraged from re-enrolling while those that return improve their GPAs.


 Inequality at Home: The Role of Parenting in the Diverging Destinies of Rich and Poor Children

Ariel Kalil, Professor, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago
Monday March 16th 2015, 12:30-2:00 PM

Ariel Kalil is a Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. At Chicago Harris, she directs the Center for Human Potential and Public Policy and co-directs the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab. She also holds an appointment as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Stavanger, Norway, in the Department of Business Administration. She is a developmental psychologist who studies economic conditions, parenting, and child development. Her current research examines the historical evolution of income-based gaps in parenting behavior and children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills. At the Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab, she is leading a variety of field experiments designed to strengthen parental engagement and child development in low-income families using tools drawn from behavioral economics and neuroscience.

Kalil received her PhD in developmental psychology from the University of Michigan. Before joining the Harris School faculty in 1999, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan's National Poverty Center. Kalil has received the William T. Grant Foundation Faculty Scholars Award, the Changing Faces of America's Children Young Scholars Award from the Foundation for Child Development, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, and in 2003 she was the first-ever recipient of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Award for Early Research Contributions. Her current work is funded by NSF, NICHD, the Aspen Institute, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

Abstract: Children face very different chances of getting ahead in life depending on the circumstances of their birth. Parenting and its role in the diverging destinies of rich and poor children are discussed in this chapter. Inequality begins at home. It develops from the myriad differences in the ways advantaged and disadvantaged parents interact with their children. Traditional policy interventions fail to attack the root cause of achievement gaps. To equalize the playing field, governments may need to invest in parents so parents can better invest in their children. Unfortunately, large-scale parenting interventions typically yield modest effect sizes at best and often do not even change children’s skills in the long term. Understanding what motivates parents to invest in their children could have a major impact on the design of policies to reduce inequality in children’s skill development. Insights from the field of behavioral economics can inform this question.

School Finance Reform and the Distribution of Student Achievement

Diane Schanzenbach, Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University
Friday April 3rd 2015, 10:00-11:30 AM 

Economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach studies education policy, child health, and food consumption. Her recent work has focused on tracing the impact of major public policies, especially on children. She has investigated changes in student performance and other outcomes resulting from small-school and charter-school reform policies and from school accountability policies, such as the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In an innovative new study, she and her colleagues, including Raj Chetty of Harvard, are examining the life paths of almost 12,000 children who were randomly assigned to kindergarten classrooms in the 1980s as part of the Tennessee Project STAR experiment. Schanzenbach has also used Project STAR data to analyze the importance of classroom composition and class size on student outcomes. Her work on food stamps has measured how households alter their consumption of food and other goods when they receive food stamp benefits and whether increased benefits lead to improved health for recipients. Schanzenbach is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. From 2002 to 2004, she was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a faculty member at the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago before joining Northwestern.

Abstract: Recent work documents a widening achievement gap between rich and poor children in recent years, and there are few proven policies that have been shown to reverse these trends. School finance reform that directs more money to low-income districts is a potential policy intervention to reduce the gap. This study focuses on the ongoing wave of judicial and legislative school finance reforms initiated by the Serrano v. Priest decision in California in 1971. Early reforms aimed at equitable funding in rich and poor school districts, but beginning in the late 1990s reforms increasingly aimed at adequate funding in poor districts (defined, roughly, as sufficient resources to achieve some minimal achievement level). This project studies the effects of school finance reforms on student achievement,using NAEP math and reading scores that are available for large representative samples of 4th and 8th graders every few years since 1990. The analytical strategy focuses on the relationship between finance reforms and summary measures of the achievement distribution (e.g., the average score, the gap in average scores between free-lunch and non-free-lunch students, or the slope of scores with respect to district median income) at the state-by-year level, pooled over all fifty states and across two decades of NAEP data. We use court-ordered school finance reforms as instruments for school finance changes. Preliminary results indicate that increased spending causes moderate achievement gains.

Keeping College Options Open: A Field Experiment to Help All High School Seniors Through the College Application Process

Philip Oreopoulos, Professor of Economics, University of Toronto
Monday April 6th 2015, 12:30-2:00 PM 

Philip Oreopoulos is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, at Berkeley and his M.A. from the University of British Columbia. He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Research Fellow at the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research.  He has held a previous visiting appointment at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is editor at the Journal of Labor Economics.  Dr. Oreopoulos’ current work focuses on education policy, especially the application of behavioral economics to education and child development.  He often examines this field by initiating and implementing large-scale field experiments, with the goal of producing convincing evidence for public policy decisions.

Abstract: Recent research suggests that the college application process itself prevents access. This paper reports results from a large school-based experiment in which application assistance is incorporated into the high school curriculum for all graduating seniors at low-transition schools. Over three workshops, students were guided to pick programs of interest that they could get into, apply for real, and complete the financial aid application. The goal was to create a real college option for exiting students to make the transition easier and more salient. The program increased application rates by 15 percentage points, on average, and college going rates by 5 percentage points (with most of the impact from increases in 2-year vocational college enrollment). The program generated significant effects for a wide range of heterogeneous groups, including both males and females, those from urban and rural schools, and those with below and those above average grades.


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