Education Policy Seminar Series - Spring 2016

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Spring 2016

The Promises and Pitfalls of Measuring Community College Quality

Michal Kurlaender, Associate Professor, University of California-Davis
Monday March 14th 2016

Bio: Michal Kurlaender is Associate Professor of Education and Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of California, Davis.  Kurlaender investigates students’ educational pathways, in particular K-12 and postsecondary alignment, and access to and success in college. She has expertise on alternative pathways to college, college readiness, and school reform. In addition to working with national data, Kurlaender works closely with administrative data from all three of California’s public higher education sectors: the California State University, the California Community Colleges, and the University of California. She received her doctorate in Education Policy from Harvard University in 2005. Kurlaender is co-director of PACE (Policy Analysis for California Education), serves on the executive committee of the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, and is an affiliated researcher with the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness and the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Abstract: In this paper we explore institutional effects on student outcomes in the nation’s largest public two-year higher education system—the California Community College system. We investigate whether there are significant differences in student outcomes across community college campuses after adjusting for observed student differences and potential unobserved determinates that drive selection. Additionally, we ask whether college rankings based on unadjusted mean differences across campuses provide meaningful information. To do so, we leverage a unique administrative dataset that links community college students to their K-12 records in order to control for key student inputs. Results show that there are meaningful differences in student outcomes across the 108 California Community Colleges in our sample, after adjusting for differences in student inputs. For example, our lower bound estimates show that going from the 10th to 90th percentile of campus quality is associated with a 3.68 (37.3 percent) increase in student transfer units earned, an 0.14(20.8 percent) increase in the probability of persisting, an 0.09 (42.2 percent) increase in the probability of transferring to a four-year college, and an 0.08 (26.6 percent) increase in the probability of completion. We also show that college rankings based on unadjusted mean differences can be quite misleading. After adjusting for differences across campus, the average school rank changed by over 30 ranks. As such, our results suggest that policymakers wishing to rank schools based on quality should adjust such rankings for differences in student-level inputs across campuses.



Principal Licensure Exams and Future Job Performance: Evidence from the School Leaders Licensure Assessment

Jason Grissom, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education, Vanderbilt University
Monday April 25th 2016
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Bio: Jason A. Grissom is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education and (by courtesy) of Political Science at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. He studies the governance of K-12 education, including both its leadership/management and political dimensions. He is particularly interested in identifying the impacts of school and district leaders on teacher and student outcomes. He has ongoing research projects on principal effectiveness, measurement and evaluation of principal job performance, and how principals use evaluation and other teacher effectiveness data to make hiring, assignment, support, and retention decisions in their schools. Grissom holds a Master's degree in Education and a PhD in Political Economics from Stanford University.

Abstract: Many states require prospective principals to pass a licensure exam as a condition of obtaining an administrative license. Little is known, however, about the potential effects of principal licensure exams on the pool of available principals or whether exams are predictive of later job performance. We investigate the most commonly used exam, the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA), using ten years of data on test takers in Tennessee. Our analysis uncovers two main results. First, there are substantial differences in passage rates by test-taker race and gender. In particular, nonwhites with otherwise similar characteristics are 12 percentage points less likely than whites to attain the required minimum score for licensure. Second, although applicants with higher scores are more likely to be hired as principals, we find little evidence that SLLA scores predict potential measures of principal job performance, including supervisors’ ratings from the statewide evaluation system or low-stakes leadership ratings from a statewide teacher survey. Our results raise questions about whether conditioning administrative licensure on SLLA passage is consistent with the goal of a diverse principal workforce.



The Effect of Price Shocks on Undocumented College Students’ Attainment and Completion

Dylan Conger, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education, George Washington University
Monday May 9th 2016
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Bio: Dylan Conger is an Associate Professor at the George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. She is also a research affiliate at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy and New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy. Dylan’s research focuses on explaining disparities in achievement between social groups and identifying and improving education policies that reduce those disparities. Current projects include examining the effects of public policies and programs on the educational outcomes of undocumented immigrant and English Language Learners from early schooling through post-secondary; estimating the effect of Advanced Placement and other advanced high school courses on educational outcomes; and identifying the sources of gender disparities in secondary and post-secondary educational outcomes. Dylan’s work can be found in such outlets as the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Demography, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and the Journal of Urban Economics. Dylan is a Managing Editor for the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management and serves on the Editorial Boards of American Educational Research Journal, and Educational Researcher. Dylan is currently serving on a National Academy of Sciences committee to review evidence and make policy recommendations concerning the education of Dual Language Learners in the U.S. and is a member of the Scientific Review Panel of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. Before joining the faculty of the Trachtenberg School, Dylan held research positions at the Vera Institute of Justice and Abt Associates, Inc. where she conducted implementation and impact evaluations of social and education programs. Dylan received her BA in Ethnic Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, her MPP from the University of Michigan, and her PhD in public policy from New York University.

Abstract: We examine the effect of a price shock caused by the temporary removal of in-state tuition benefits on the attainment of undocumented immigrants enrolled in a large urban college system using a difference- in-differences identification strategy. The 113 percent one-semester tuition increase led to an 8 percent decrease in reenrollment and a similarly-sized reduction in credit accumulation. Furthermore, students who entered college the semester prior to the price shock experienced lasting reductions in attainment, including a 22 percent decrease in degree receipt. Conversely, among students who had been enrolled for at least a year, the price shock only affected the timing of college exit. Our results suggest that public subsidies that lower college prices can increase degree completion among resource-constrained students who have made the decision to enroll in college, with larger benefits accruing to those who are early in their college careers.


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