Working Papers, Policy Briefs & Reports

The Effect of Retention Under Mississippi’s Test-Based Promotion Policy

Authors: Kirsten Slungaard Mumma and Marcus A Winters Project Summary This study examines the impact of Mississippi’s test-based promotion policy, adopted in 2013 as part of a comprehensive statewide effort to improve early literacy. The authors employ a research design that allows them to estimate the causal impact of third-grade retention under the policy on test scores and non-test-score outcomes in the sixth grade. The findings contribute to our growing knowledge of how elementary-level...

Politics and Children’s Books: Evidence from School Library Collections

Authors: Kirsten Slungaard Mumma Project Summary This study begins by compiling a novel data set on the books in over 6,000 school libraries across the country. With this unique look inside school library shelves, the author then details some trends and themes related to the collections based on various characteristics, including for instance difference across high and low-income schools and the political leanings of surrounding areas. Key Findings Schools with more white students, schools...

Can a Commercial Screening Tool Help Select Better Teachers?

Authors: Olivia L Chi, Boston University; Matthew Lenard, Harvard University  Project Summary When looking to hire a new teacher, districts can receive anywhere from dozens to hundreds of applications per vacancy. This can require significant time and effort as school leaders wade through the resume stack in order to find a teacher who will be most effective in the classroom. So, when a popular software company offers a product that screens and prioritizes candidates for review, it’s an...

Enrollment Flexibility and Charter School Impacts: The Effect of Backfill on Students in Massachusetts Charter Middle Schools

Authors: Marcus A. Winters, Boston University, Cheonghum Park, Korea Institute of Public Finance Project Summary This study leverages Massachusetts's adoption of a statewide requirement for charter schools to backfill vacancies within some grades to provide the first causal estimates for the effect of incorporating new students on the performance of incumbent charter school pupils. Using data from the universe of Massachusetts public school students enrolled in Grades 5 through 8 from...

Ability Signals and Rigorous Coursework: Evidence from AP Calculus Participation

Authors: Christopher Avery, Harvard University, Joshua Goodman, Boston University Project Summary This study examines how one signal of ability—whether a student achieves “Advanced” status on Massachusetts’ 10th grade statewide standardized assessment—effects subsequent enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus courses. The findings suggest that ability signals can positively influence choices around student enrollment, either by changing students’ and families’ course choices or by...

Using Classroom Observations in the Evaluation of Special Education Teachers

Authors: Nathan D. Jones, Courtney A. Bell, Mary Brownell, Yi Qi, David Peyton, Daisy Pua, Melissa Fowler, Steven Holtzman Project Summary While teacher evaluation systems and policies have evolved nationwide during the past decade, the use of structured classroom observation tools remains nearly universal. This paper examines one of the most popular observation systems in the country—Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (FFT)—and asks the question: “How well do common observation...

COVID-19 and the Composition of the Massachusetts Teacher Workforce

Authors: Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Olivia Chi, and Alexis Orellana Project Summary The COVID-19 crisis has created unprecedented disruption for school systems, educators, and the students they serve. The pandemic-related challenges and connected policy responses have the potential to alter the supply of and demand for teachers, both in the short and long-term. The following analyses examine the extent to which the composition of the teacher workforce changed in Massachusetts during various stages...

The Pandemic’s Effect on Demand for Public Schools, Homeschooling, and Private Schools

Authors: Tareena Musaddiq, Kevin Stange, Andrew Bacher-Hicks, & Joshua Goodman This reflects joint work with colleagues at the Education Policy Initiative at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy. Additional information on their website here.  Project Summary The COVID-19 pandemic drastically disrupted the functioning of U.S. public schools, potentially changing the relative appeal of alternatives such as homeschooling and private schools. Using student-level...

Teacher Time Use and Affect During COVID-19

Authors: Nathan Jones, Eric Camburn, Ben Kelcey, & Esther Quintero This research was supported in part by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences. Project Summary In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a shutdown of school buildings across the United States and a subsequent unplanned nationwide transition to remote learning. For teachers, these school building closures resulted in a transformation of many facets of their work, requiring them to take on new and often...

The COVID-19 Pandemic Disrupted Both School Bullying and Cyberbullying

Author: Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Joshua Goodman, Jennifer Greif Green, Melissa K. Holt Project Summary School bullying is widespread and has substantial social costs. One in five U.S. high school students report being bullied each school year and these students face greater risks of serious mental health chal-lenges that extend into adulthood. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced most students into online education, many have worried that cyberbullying prevalence would grow dramatically. We use data...