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 elementary and middle-school 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 restrict our identification of peer effects to those students whom the district does not select to switch schools. 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); though these gains may reduce achievement for students from higher-income backgrounds.
Replication files: coming soon
Descriptive evidence on school leaders' prior professional experiences and instructional effectiveness (with Lorna Porter)In this descriptive paper, we document the professional experiences, personal characteristics and prior instructional effectiveness of Oregon's principals and assistant principals between 2006 and 2019. We highlight the diversity of roles educators assume prior to entering school leadership. We find that school leaders who have prior teaching experience in tested grades and subjects do not raise student achievement at substantively or statistically meaningful higher rates than their peers. We document that female principals and assistant principals have become more representative of the teaching workforce, but that there have been almost no changes in the racial/ethnic composition of school leaders in Oregon. Finally, we observe minimal differences in female and non-White assistant principals' time-to-entry into the principalship. Our findings provide insights on potential points of intervention during the educator career trajectory to attract and develop more effective and demographically representative school leaders.
Replication files: coming soon
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.
Replication files: Zip folder
Teacher evaluation for growth and accountability: Under what conditions does it improve student outcomes?Teacher evaluation policies seek to improve student outcomes by improving teachers’ skills and increasing their effort. Most present-day evaluation policies in the United States aim to impose accountability pressures and provide developmental supports that generate professional growth. Proper policy design has been understood as successfully weighting the accountability and growth dimensions of teacher evaluation. I detail the conditions that determine whether joint-aim teacher evaluation policies will improve student outcomes. I then assess the extent to which these conditions are likely to be met in light of the causal evidence base from the education, economics, social psychology and management literatures. Informed by this research synthesis, I conclude with recommendations to more clearly delineate the accountability and growth aims of teacher evaluation.