David D. Liebowitz

Assistant Professor of Educational Methodology, Policy and LeadershipUniversity of Oregon

New schools and new classmates: The disruption and peer group effects of school reassignment (with Darryl V. Hill, Rodney P. Hughes, Matthew A. Lenard and Lindsay C. Page)

Policy makers periodically consider using student assignment policies to improve educational outcomes by altering the socio-economic and academic skill composition of schools. We exploit the quasi-random reassignment of students across schools in the Wake County Public School System to estimate the academic and behavioral effects of being reassigned to a different school and, separately, of shifts in peer characteristics. We rule out all but substantively small effects of transitioning to a different school as a result of reassignment on test scores, course grades and chronic absenteeism. In contrast, increasing the achievement levels of students' peers improves students' math and ELA test scores but harms their ELA course grades. Test score benefits accrue primarily to students from higher-income families, though students with lower family income or lower prior performance still benefit. Our results suggest that student assignment policies that relocate students to avoid the over-concentration of lower-achieving students or those from lower-income families can accomplish equity goals (despite important caveats), although these reassignments may reduce achievement for students from higher-income backgrounds.

Publisher's version: 2023 Economics of Education Review, 92(February), 102316

Open-access version: Google Drive

Summary version: Education Next

Previous versions: NBER Working Paper; Annenberg Institute EdWorkingPaper

Replication files: Zip file

Descriptive evidence on school leaders' prior professional experiences and instructional effectiveness (with Lorna Porter)

Many education policymakers and system leaders prioritize recruiting and developing effective school leaders as key mechanisms to improve school climate and student learning. Despite efforts to select and support successful school leaders, however, relatively little is understood about the prior professional experiences and skillsets that principals possess upon entry into their positions. In this descriptive paper, we use 14 years of administrative data on all educators in Oregon to trace the prior professional experiences and instructional effectiveness of those who become school leaders. We highlight that many principals in Oregon acquire educational leadership experience outside the assistant principal role and outside of the school district in which they serve as principals. We also find that when future school leaders were teachers, they improved student achievement at modestly higher rates than their peers. Insight into these topics has the potential to inform the pre-service training, recruitment and professional development of school leaders.

Publisher's version: 2022 Leadership and Policy in Schools, pp. 1-25

Open-access version: Google Drive

Previous version: Annenberg Institute EdWorkingPaper

Replication files: Zip file

Teacher evaluation for growth and accountability: Under what conditions does it improve student outcomes?

Most teacher evaluation policies in the United States seek to improve student outcomes by providing developmental supports to grow teachers’ skills and by imposing accountability pressures to increase their effort. In this research synthesis and analytic essay, David Liebowitz argues that proper policy design has been understood as successfully balancing the accountability and growth dimensions of teacher evaluation. He details six conditions that determine whether joint-aim teacher evaluation policies will improve student outcomes and assesses the extent to which they are likely to be met given the causal evidence from the education, economics, social psychology, and management research literatures. The article concludes with recommendations to more clearly delineate the accountability and growth aims of teacher evaluation.

Publisher's version: 2022 Harvard Educational Review, 92(4), pp. 533-565

Open-access version: Google Drive

Media coverage: Marshall Memo

The effects of higher-stakes teacher evaluation on office disciplinary referrals (with Lorna Porter and Dylan Bragg)

The effects of imposing accountability pressures on public school teachers are empirically indeterminate. In this paper, we study the effects of accountability in the context of teacher responses to student behavioral infractions in the aftermath of teacher evaluation reforms. We leverage cross-state variation in the timing of state policy implementation to estimate whether teachers change the rate at which they remove students from their classrooms. We find that higher-stakes teacher evaluation had no causal effect on the rates of disciplinary referrals, and we find no evidence of heterogeneous effects for grades subject to greater accountability pressures or in schools facing differing levels of disciplinary infractions. Our results are precisely estimated and robust to a battery of assumption and specification checks.

Publisher's version: 2022 Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, (15)3

Open-access version: Google Drive

1-page summary: Insights from JREE

Replication files: Zip folder; OSF

Prior version: Annenberg Institute EdWorkingPaper 19-159

Teacher evaluation for accountability and growth: Should policy treat them as complements or substitutes?

U.S. state and local policy frameworks treat teacher evaluation as balancing two aims: accountability and skill development. I develop a model of teacher effectiveness and detail the conditions that determine joint-aim appraisal systems' contribution to teacher productivity. I then simulate the long-term effects of a set of teacher evaluation policies. Policies that treat evaluation for accountability and evaluation for growth as substitutes outperform those that treat them as complements. I conclude that an optimal teacher evaluation policy would impose accountability on teachers performing below a defined level and above which teachers would be subject to no accountability pressure but would receive intensive instructional supports.

Publisher's version: 2021 Labour Economics, 71(August), 102024

Open-access version: Google Drive

Replication files: Stata code

Prior version: Annenberg Institute EdWorkingPaper 20-160

The effects of principal behaviors on student, teacher and school outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the empirical literature (with Lorna Porter)

Principals are understood to be critical actors in improving teaching and learning conditions in schools; however, relatively little is known about the leadership strategies to which principals should dedicate their time and effort to improve outcomes. We review the empirical literature from 51 studies of principal behaviors and student, teacher and school outcomes and conduct a meta-analysis of these relationships. Our analysis has three central findings: (1) we find direct evidence of the relationship between principal behaviors and student achievement 0.08-0.16 standard deviations), teacher well-being (0.34-0.38 SD), teacher instructional practices (0.35 SD), and school organizational health (0.72-0.81 SD); (2) we find that prior literature may overstate the unique importance of instructional management as a tool to improve student achievement outcomes; and (3) the preceding findings are based almost entirely on observational studies because the causal evidence base on school leadership behaviors is non-existent. We argue our findings suggest value in investing in school leadership capacities. We conclude by discussing opportunities to improve the quality of future research examining the relationship between principal behaviors and student, teacher, and school outcomes.
Principal behavior effects on student achievement

Publisher's version: 2019 Review of Educational Research, 89(5), pp. 785-827

Open-access version: Google Drive

Replication files: Stata code; Data

Media coverage: Wallace Foundation

Ending to what end? The impact of the termination of court desegregation orders on patterns of residential segregation and school dropout rates

In the early 1990s, the Supreme Court established standards to facilitate the release of school districts from racial desegregation orders. Over the next two decades, federal courts declared almost half of all districts under court order in 1991 to be “unitary”—that is, to have met their obligations to eliminate dual systems of education. I leverage a comprehensive dataset of all districts that were under court order in 1991 to assess the national effects of the termination of desegregation orders on indices of residential-racial segregation and high-school dropout rates. I conclude that the release from court orders moderately increased the short-term rates of Hispanic–White residential segregation. Furthermore, the declaration of districts as unitary increased rates of 16- to 19-year-old school dropouts by around 1 percentage point for Blacks, particularly those residing outside the South, and 3 percentage points for Hispanics.

Does school policy affect housing choices? Evidence from the end of desegregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg (with Lindsay C. Page)

We examine whether the legal decision to grant unitary status to the Charlotte–Mecklenburg school district, which led to the end of race-conscious student assignment policies, increased the probability that families with children enrolled in the district would move to neighborhoods with a greater proportion of student residents of the same race as their own children. Motivated by the rich but inconclusive literature on the consequences of educational and residential segregation, we make use of a natural policy experiment—a judicial decision to end court-ordered busing—to estimate the causal impacts of this policy shift on household residential decisions. We find that, for those who moved, the legal decision made White families with children in the Charlotte–Mecklenburg Schools substantially more likely than they were during desegregation to move to a neighborhood with a greater proportion of White residents than their own neighborhood.