Too Scared to Learn? The Academic Consequences of Feeling Unsafe in the Classroom
A safe environment is a prerequisite for productive learning. Using a unique panel data set of survey responses from New York City middle school students, the article provides insight into the relationship between feelings of safety in the classroom and academic achievement. The survey data include the reported feelings of safety for more than 340,000 students annually from 2007 to 2010 in more than 700 middle schools. Findings show a consistent negative relationship between feeling unsafe in the classroom and test scores. The study provides insight into the mechanisms through which feeling unsafe in the classroom relates to test scores and presents multiple robustness checks to support the central finding.
Impacts of Classifying New York City Students as Overweight
Douglas Almond, Ajin Lee, and Amy Ellen Schwartz
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
US schools increasingly report body mass index (BMI) to students and their parents in annual fitness “report cards.” We obtained 3,592,026 BMI reports for New York City public school students for 2007–2012. We focus on female students whose BMI puts them close to their age-specific cutoff for categorization as overweight. Overweight students are notified that their BMI “falls outside a healthy weight” and they should review their BMI with a health care provider. Using a regression discontinuity design, we compare those classified as overweight but near to the overweight cutoff to those whose BMI narrowly earned them a “healthy” BMI grouping. We find that overweight categorization generates small impacts on girls’ subsequent BMI and weight. Whereas presumably an intent of BMI report cards was to slow BMI growth among heavier students, BMIs and weights did not decline relative to healthy peers when assessed the following academic year. Our results speak to the discrete categorization as overweight for girls with BMIs near the overweight cutoff, not to the overall effect of BMI reporting in New York City.
Early Childhood Poverty: Short and Long Run Consequences Over the Lifespan
Kathleen Ziol-Guest, Ariel Kalil, and Greg J. Duncan
Poor children begin school well behind their more affluent peers and the gaps persist over the school years. Low-income families experience higher levels of stress than more affluent families and these disparities may affect children’s development. Economic theory suggests that children from poor families lag behind their economically advantaged counterparts in part because their parents have less time and money to invest in them. Little of the existing literature has been able to estimate the impacts of low family income during the very earliest years of a child’s life – the time when children are developing rapidly and may be very sensitive to family and home conditions. Similarly few studies have been able to examine the consequences of poverty during childhood for outcomes measured in adulthood. This is an important omission in the literature not only because it limits understanding of the intergenerational reproduction of poverty but also because the goals of childhood anti-poverty policies are often characterized in terms of their impacts on children’s life chances.
Effect of School-Based Water Intervention on Child Body Mass Index and Obesity
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Michele Leardo, Siddhartha Aneja, and Brian Elbel
The goal of this study was to estimate the impact of water jets on zBMI, overweight and obesity in NYC public elementary and middle school students. Results indicate that zBMI, overweight and obesity decreased significantly for males, and zBMI and overweight decreased significantly for females. This study shows that a relatively low-cost water availability intervention in schools can have a positive effect on student weight.
The Effect of Breakfast in the Classroom on Obesity and Academic Performance: Evidence from New York City
Sean Corcoran, Brian Elbel, and Amy Ellen Schwartz
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
Participation in the federally subsidized school breakfast program often falls well below its lunchtime counterpart. To increase take-up, many districts have implemented Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC), offering breakfast directly to students at the start of the school day. Beyond increasing participation, advocates claim BIC improves academic performance, attendance, and engagement. Others caution BIC has deleterious effects on child weight. We use the implementation of BIC in New York City (NYC) to estimate its impact on meals program participation, body mass index (BMI), achievement, and attendance. While we find large effects on participation, our findings provide no evidence of hoped-for gains in academic performance, or of feared increases in obesity. The policy case for BIC will depend upon reductions in hunger and food insecurity for disadvantaged children, or its longer-term effects.
Are all schools created equal? Learning environments in small and large public high schools in New York City
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel, and Matthew Wiswall
Economics of Education Review
Over the past two decades, high school reform has been characterized by a belief that “smaller is better.” Much of the expected academic benefit from attending small schools has been credited to their better learning environments. There is little empirical support for this claim, however, and the existing research fails to provide causal evidence. Moreover, recent studies in New York City have shown that students attending newly created small schools do better academically relative to students attending both large and older established small schools. Are these differences in academic outcomes also mirrored by differences in learning environments? In this paper, we address this question by exploring the impact of attending large compared to small high schools on students’ learning environments, considering the differences between small high schools formed in two different eras with different missions and resources. We use a unique data set of school and student-level data from New York City public high school students entering 9th grade in 2008–09 and 2009–10 to examine students’ attitudes about school learning environments along three dimensions: interpersonal relationships, academic expectations and support, and social behavior and safety. While OLS results show that students attending small schools (new and old) perceive better learning environments, instrumenting for selection into these schools challenges those results. In general, it is not clear that small schools provide better learning environments than large schools. Our results challenge the conventional wisdom that the higher academic performance of students in small schools is driven by a better learning environment.
Changes in Income-Based Gaps in Parent Activities with Young Children from 1988-2012
Kathleen Ziol-Guest, Ariel Kalil, Rebecca M. Ryan, and Anna J. Markowitz
Numerous studies show large differences between economically advantaged and disadvantaged parents in the quality and quantity of their engagement in young children’s development. This “parenting gap” may account for a substantial portion of the gap in children’s early cognitive skills. However, researchers know little about whether the socioeconomic gap in parenting has increased over time. The present study investigates this question, focusing on income- and education-based gaps in parents’ engagement in cognitively stimulating activities with preschool-aged children. We draw on data from four national studies conducted over 25 years. We found a decrease in income-based gaps in children’s book ownership and library attendance but increasing income-based gaps for several other parent behaviors, including reading and telling stories to children and teaching children letters, words, and numbers. Income-based gaps in children’s participation in out-of-home cultural activities also increased. Results for education-based gaps were similar. These gaps largely arose from top-income families pulling away from their middle- and low-income counterparts.
Neighborhoods, Schools, and Obesity: The Potential for Place-Based Approaches to Reduce Childhood Obesity
Sean Corcoran, Amy Ellen Schwartz, and Brian Elbel
A common policy approach to reducing childhood obesity aims to shape the environment in which children spend most of their time: neighborhoods and schools. This paper uses richly detailed data on the body mass index (BMI) of all New York City public school students in grades K-8 to assess the potential for place-based approaches to reduce child obesity. We document variation in the prevalence of obesity across NYC public schools and census tracts, and then estimate the extent to which this variation can be explained by differences in individual-level predictors (such as race and household income). Both unadjusted and adjusted variability across neighborhoods and schools suggest place-based policies have the potential to meaningfully reduce child obesity, but under most realistic scenarios the improvement would be modest.
Parent Income-Based Gaps in Schooling: Cross-Cohort Trends in the NLSYs and the PSID
Kathleen Ziol-Guest and Kenneth T. H. Lee
AERA Open (2016)
Both income inequality and the achievement test score gap between high- and low-income children increased dramatically in the United States beginning in the 1970s. Recent work by Chetty, Hendren, Kline, Saez, and Turner (2014) suggests that, unlike the test score gap, the gap in college enrollment is essentially constant. This article takes a longer historical view and investigates trends in income-based gaps in a number of schooling attainment measures using data from two cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79 and NLSY97) as well as 31 birth cohorts from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Findings support Chetty and colleagues’ conclusion of little change in college enrollment for their cohorts but show significant increases in college enrollment gaps between Chetty and colleagues’ and prior cohorts in both the PSID and the NLSY. We further find strong evidence of growing gaps in college completion. In contrast, gaps in high school graduation have fallen, which provide at least one optimistic sign of catching up among low-income individuals. The net result of these trends is to produce a modestly increasing gap in completed schooling between children growing up in low- and high-income families.
Socioeconomic Gaps in Parents' Discipline Strategies from 1988-2011
Kathleen Ziol-Guest, Rebecca M. Ryan, Ariel Kalil, and Christina Padilla
The prevalence of corporal punishment is high in the United States despite a 1998 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement urging against its use. The current study tests whether the socioeconomic difference in its use by parents has changed over the past quarter century. It goes on to test whether socioeconomic differences in the use of nonphysical discipline have also changed over time.
Review of The School Choice Journey: School Vouchers and the Empowerment of Urban Families by Patrick J. Wolf and Thomas Stewart
Political Science Quarterly
Thomas Stewart and Patrick J. Wolf’s new book provides an in-depth look at the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), a federally funded voucher that provides low-income students in Washington, DC, the opportunity to attend private school. In focusing on the qualitative experiences of parents, schools, and administrators, The School Choice Journey differentiates itself from other work on school choice, which is often more concerned with its politics or impact on student achievement. Other studies by Wolf (who is lead evaluator of the OSP) and his colleagues have found that the voucher had no effect on test scores but a large positive effect on high school graduation and parent satisfaction.
Bullying, Safety, and Belonging in the Middle school Years: Do Top Dogs Rule?
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel, and Michah Rothbart
American Education Research Journal (2016)
Recent research finds that grade span affects academic achievement, but only speculates about the mechanisms. In this study, we examine one commonly cited mechanism, the top dog/bottom dog phenomenon, which states that students at the top of a grade span (“top dogs”) have better experiences than those at the bottom (“bottom dogs”). Using an instrumental variables strategy introduced in Rockoff & Lockwood (2010) and a longitudinal data set containing student survey data for New York City public middle school students, we estimate the impact of top dog and bottom dog status on bullying, safety, belonging, and academic achievement. This paper provides the first credibly causal evidence that top dog status improves the learning environment and academic achievement. We further find that the top dog effect is strongest in 6th grade and in schools with longer grade spans and that the top dog effect is not explained by new students to a school or student height.
Does Small High School Reform Lift Urban Districts? Evidence From New York City
Leanna Stiefel, Amy Ellen Schwartz and Matthew Wiswall
Educational Researcher, 44(3), 161-172
Research finds that small high schools deliver better outcomes than large high schools for urban students. An important outstanding question is whether this better performance is gained at the expense of losses elsewhere: Does small school reform lift the whole district? The authors explore New York City’s small high school reform in which hundreds of new small high schools were built in less than a decade. They use rich individual student data on four cohorts of New York City high school students and estimate effects of schools on student outcomes. Their results suggest that the introduction of small schools improved outcomes for students in all types of schools: large, small, continuously operating, and new. Small school reform lifted all boats.
Is Neighborhood Destiny? Exploring the Link between Neighborhood Mobility and Student Outcomes
Sarah Cordes, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel and Jeffrey Zabel
The notion that children from ‘good’ neighbourhoods are destined for success while those from ‘bad’ neighbourhoods are destined for failure has considerable popular appeal. Residential location is strongly linked to school quality, access to educated adults, exposure to violence, etc. There is, however, surprisingly little evidence on the link between the neighbourhood in which a child begins school and later schooling outcomes. Understanding early neighbourhood experiences is important for determining whether students are ‘stuck’ in neighbourhoods of disadvantage. It is also critical for determining the extent to which students who begin their schooling careers in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are destined for poor schooling outcomes, and conversely, whether changing neighbourhood context improves student performance. In this study, therefore, the authors document how students’ early neighbourhood and schooling experiences are related to later success in school, and explore how changing neighbourhood and school contexts explain differences in academic outcomes. Using data from New York City (NYC), the authors construct a panel containing all students enrolled as first graders in NYC public schools in 1996–1997, following them through academic years 2007–2008, which would be their 12th grade year if they made standard academic progress (annual one-grade promotion). Far from supporting the simplistic story of ‘dead-end’ neighbourhoods, the analyses describe a situation where students from poor neighbourhoods actually move more often than their peers in less disadvantaged neighbourhoods and are more likely to experience changes in neighbourhood and school quality, with 45.7% of neighbourhood moves from the poorest neighbourhoods being made to significantly higher quality neighbourhoods.
High Stakes in the Classroom, High Stakes on the Street: The Effects of Community Violence on Student’s Standardized Test Performance
Patrick Skarkey, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Ingrid Gould Ellen and Johanna Lacoe
Sociological Science, 1, 199-220
This article examines the effect of exposure to violent crime on students’ standardized test performance among a sample of students in New York City public schools. To identify the effect of exposure to community violence on children’s test scores, the authors compare students exposed to an incident of violent crime on their own blockface in the week prior to the exam to students exposed in the week after the exam. The results show that such exposure to violent crime reduces performance on English language arts assessments and has no effect on math scores. The effect of exposure to violent crime is most pronounced among African Americans and reduces the passing rates of black students by approximately 3 percentage points.
Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools?
Keren Mertens Horn, Ingrid Gould Ellen and Amy Ellen Schwartz
Journal of Housing Economics, 23: 28-40
The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. Rather than concentrating low income households in designated developments, vouchers allow families to choose their housing units and neighborhoods. In this project we explore whether low income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. Unlike previous experimental work, which has focused on a small sample of voucher holders constrained to live in low-poverty neighborhoods, the authors look at the voucher population as a whole and explore the broad range of neighborhoods in which they live. Relying on internal data from HUD on the location of assisted households, they link each voucher holder in the country to the closest elementary school within their school district. The authors compare the characteristics of the schools that voucher holders are likely to attend to the characteristics of those accessible to other households receiving place based housing subsidies, other similar unsubsidized households and fair market rent units within the same state and metropolitan area. These comparisons provide us with a portrait of the schools that children might have attended absent HUD assistance. In comparison to other poor households in the same metropolitan areas, they find that the schools near voucher holders have lower performing students than the schools near other poor households without a housing subsidy. The authors probe this surprising finding by exploring whether differences between the demographic characteristics of voucher holders and other poor households explain the differences in the characteristics of nearby schools, and whether school characteristics vary with length of time in the voucher program. Also examined is the variation across metropolitan areas in the relative quality of schools near to voucher holders and whether this variation is explained by economic, socio-demographic or policy differences across cities.
Museums, Zoos, and Gardens: How Formal-Informal Partnerships Can Impact Urban Students' Performance in Science
Meryle Weinstein, Emilyn Ruble Whitesell and Amy Ellen Schwartz
Evaluation Review, 38(6): 514-545
Informal science education institutions (ISEIs) are critical partners in public science education, as they support the science efforts of school systems by providing authentic opportunities for scientific inquiry. This study reports findings from an evaluation of urban advantage (UA), a collaboration between the New York City Department of Education and eight ISEIs designed to improve science education in New York City (NYC) middle schools. Now in its 10th year, the program harnesses the resources and expertise of NYC’s ISEIs to (a) enhance the science content knowledge of middle school science teachers, (b) develop teachers’ skills at using inquiry-based approaches in their classrooms, and (c) improve the science achievement of middle school students.
Unequally Safe: The Race Gap in School Safety
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
School safety is a critical issue for school staff, policy makers, and parents. Efforts to promote safety often focus on reducing school violence and disorder, including zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, metal detectors, and police officers in schools. Yet little is known about how safe students feel at school and how safety varies within schools. Using survey data for the population of middle school students in a large urban school district, this article identifies gaps in feelings of safety between Black students, Hispanic students, and their White and Asian peers. Key characteristics of schools and neighborhoods that relate to safety gaps are identified.
What Is a Summer Job Worth? The Impact of Summer Youth Employment on Academic Outcomes
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33(4), 891-911
This paper estimates the impact of New York City's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) on school attendance and other educational outcomes in the following school year for a large sample of low-income high school students. The program provides summer jobs and training to youth aged 14 to 21, and due to high demand allocates slots through a lottery. Analyses focusing on 36,550 students who applied in 2007 indicate that SYEP produces small increases in attendance in the following school year, with larger increases for students who may be at greater educational risk: those aged 16 and older with low baseline school attendance. For this group, SYEP also increases the likelihood of attempting and passing statewide high school math and English examinations. Findings suggest that although SYEP's explicit goals focus on workforce readiness rather than academics, the program fosters engagement and success in school.
Not Just for Poor Kids: The Impact of Universal Free School Breakfast on Meal Participation and Student Outcomes
Jacob Leos-Urbel, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Meryle Weinstein and Sean P. Corcoran
Economics of Education Review, 36: 88-107
This paper examines the impact of the implementation of a universal free school breakfast policy on meals program participation, attendance, and academic achievement. In 2003, New York City made school breakfast free for all students regardless of income, while increasing the price of lunch for those ineligible for meal subsidies. Using a difference-indifference estimation strategy, the authors derive plausibly causal estimates of the policy’s impact by exploiting within and between group variation in school meal pricing before and after the policy change. The estimates suggest that the policy resulted in small increases in breakfast participation both for students who experienced a decrease in the price of breakfast and for free-lunch eligible students who experienced no price change. The latter suggests that universal provision may alter behavior through mechanisms other than price, highlighting the potential merits of universal provision over targeted services. The authors find limited evidence of policy impacts on academic outcomes.
Do Small Schools Improve Performance in Large, Urban Districts? Causal Evidence from New York City
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel, and Matt Wiswall
Journal of Urban Economics, 77, 27-40
The paper evaluates the effectiveness of small high school reform in the country’s largest school district, New York City. Using a rich administrative dataset for multiple cohorts of students and distance between student residence and school to instrument for endogenous school selection, the authors find substantial heterogeneity in school effects: newly created small schools have positive effects on graduation and some other education outcomes while older small schools do not. Importantly, the authors show that ignoring this source of treatment effect heterogeneity by assuming a common small school effect yields a misleading zero effect of small school attendance.
Value Added and its Uses: Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit
Sean Corcoran and Dan Goldhaber
Education Finance and Policy, 8(3): 418-434
In this policy brief the authors argue that there is little debate about the statistical properties of value-added model (VAM) estimates of teacher performance, yet, despite this, there is little consensus about what the evidence about VAMs implies for their practical utility as part of high-stakes performance evaluation systems. A review of the evidence base that underlies the debate over VAM measures, followed by the subjective opinions about the value of using VAMs, illustrates how different policy conclusions can easily arise even given a high-level general agreement about an existing body of evidence. The authors conclude the brief by offering a few thoughts about the limits of our knowledge and what that means for those who do wish to integrate VAMs into their own teacherevaluation strategy.
Training Your Own: The Impact of New York City’s Aspiring Principals Program on Achievement
Sean P. Corcoran, Amy Ellen Schwartz and Meryle Weinstein
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 34(2): 232-253
The New York City Leadership Academy represents a unique experiment by a large urban school district to train and develop its own school leaders. Its 14-month Aspiring Principals Program (APP) selects and prepares aspiring principals to lead low-performing schools. This study provides the first systematic evaluation of achievement in APP-staffed schools after 3 or more years. The authors examine differences between APP principals and those advancing through other routes, the extent to which APP graduates serve and remain in schools, and their relative performance in mathematics and English language arts. On balance, the authors find that APP principals performed about as well as other new principals. If anything, they narrowed the gap with comparison schools in English language arts but lagged behind in mathematics.
White and Black Urban School Teachers' Job Satisfaction: Does Relational Demography Matter?
Susan Fairchild, Robert Tobias, Sean P. Corcoran, Maja Djukic and Pedro Noguera
Urban Education, 47(1): 170-197
Data on the impact of student, teacher, and principal racial and gender composition in urban schools on teacher work outcomes are limited. This study, a secondary data analysis of White and Black urban public school teachers using data taken from the restricted use 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), examines the effects of relational demography on teacher job satisfaction adjusting for other known determinants of job satisfaction. Relational demography is conceptualized as a set of racial and gender congruency items between teachers and principals, teachers and teachers, and teachers and students. The results of the study show that some components of relational demography directly affect teacher job satisfaction, over and above the effects of work-related attitudes.
What Do AEFA Members Say? Summary of Results of an Education Finance and Policy Survey
Leanna Stiefel, Amy Ellen Schwartz and Anne Rotenberg
Education Finance and Policy, 6 (2): 267-292
In the spring of 2008 the authors surveyed members of the American Education Finance Association (AEFA) to gain insight into their views on education policy issues. The results summarize opinions of this broad group of education researchers and practitioners, providing AEFA members and education leaders with access to views that may be helpful as they consider policies to analyze or pursue. This article reports the results in six areas of current policy interest. How should education aid be distributed? Is school choice a good thing? Does school finance reform work? What has accountability wrought? Can school policies close the blackwhite achievement gap? And how should teachers be compensated? Their findings identify areas of substantial agreement as well as areas where there is disagreement. For example, there is considerable agreement that state and federal governments should provide additional funding for disadvantaged students but disagreement on how to measure school finance adequacy.
Commuting to work: RN Travel Time to Employment in Rural and Urban Areas
Marie-Claire Rosenberg, Sean P. Corcoran, Christine Kovner and Carol Brewer
Policy, Politics, and Nursing Practice, 12(1): 46-54
This paper investigates the variation in average daily travel time to work among registered nurses (RNs) living in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The authors examine how travel time varies across RN characteristics, job setting, and availability of local employment opportunities. Descriptive statistics and linear regression using a 5% sample from the 2000 Census and a longitudinal survey of newly licensed RNs (NLRN) are used. Travel time for NLRN respondents was estimated using geographic information systems (GIS) software. Findings: In the NLRN, rural nurses and those living in small towns had significantly longer average commute times. Young married RNs and RNs with children also tended to have longer commute times, as did RNs employed by hospitals. Conclusions: The findings indicate that travel time to work varies significantly across locale types. Further research is needed to understand whether and to what extent lengthy commute times impact RN workforce needs in rural and urban areas.
Does Losing Your Home Mean Losing Your School? Effects of Foreclosure on the School Mobility of Children
Vicki Been, Ingrid Ellen Gould, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel and Meryle Weinstein
Regional Science and Urban Economics, 41 (4): 407-414
In the last few years, millions of homes around the country have entered foreclosure, pushing many families out of their homes and potentially forcing their children to move to new schools. Unfortunately, despite considerable attention to the causes and consequences of mortgage defaults, we understand little about the distribution and severity of these impacts on school children. This paper takes a step toward filling that gap through studying how foreclosures in New York City affect the mobility of public school children across schools. A significant body of research suggests that, in general, switching schools is costly for students, though the magnitude of the effect depends critically on the nature of the move and the quality of the origin and destination schools.
The Effect of Immigrant Communities on Foreign-Born Student Achievement
Dylan Conger, Amy E. Schwartz and Leanna Stiefel
International Migration Review, 45 (3): 675-701
This paper explores the effect of the human capital characteristics of co-ethnic immigrant communities on foreign-born students’ math achievement. The authors use data on New York City public school foreign-born students from 39 countries merged with census data on the characteristics of the immigrant household heads in the city from each nation of origin and estimate regressions of student achievement on co-ethnic immigrant community characteristics, controlling for student and school attributes. They find that the income and size of the co-ethnic immigrant community has no effect on immigrant student achievement, while the percent of college graduates may have a small positive effect. In addition, children in highly English proficient immigrant communities test slightly lower than children from less proficient communities. The results suggest that there may be some protective factors associated with immigrant community members’ education levels and use of native languages.
Local Demand for School Choice: Evidence from the Washington Charter School Referenda
Sean P. Corcoran and Christiana Stoddard
Education Finance and Policy, 6(3), 323-353
The expansion of charter schools—publicly funded, yet in direct competition with traditional public schools—has emerged as a favored response to poor performance in the education sector. While a large and growing literature has sought to estimate the impact of these schools on student achievement, comparatively little is known about demand for the policy itself. Using election returns from three consecutive referenda on charter schools in Washington State, the authors weigh the relative importance of school quality, community and school demographics, and partisanship in explaining voter support for greater school choice. The authors find that low school quality—as measured by standardized tests—is a consistent and modestly strong predictor of support for charters. However, variation in performance between school districts is more predictive of charter support than variation within them. At the local precinct level, school resources, union membership, student heterogeneity, and the Republican vote share are often stronger predictors of charter support than standardized test results.
Does Municipally Subsidized Housing Improve School Quality? Evidence from New York City
Colin Chellman, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Brian J. McCabe, Amy Ellen Schwartz and Leanna Stiefel
Journal of the American Planning Association, 77(2): 127-144
Policymakers and community development practitioners view increasing subsidized owner-occupied housing as a mechanism to improve urban neighborhoods, but little research studies the impact of such investments on community amenities. In this study, the authors examine the impact of subsidized owner-occupied housing on the quality of local schools and compare them to the impacts of city investments in rental units. Using data from the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), they estimate three main sets of regressions, exploring student characteristics, school resources, and school outcomes. The authors find that the completion of subsidized owner-occupied housing is associated with a decrease in schools' percentage of free-lunch eligible students, an increase in schools' percentage of White students, and, controlling for these compositional changes, an increase in scores on standardized reading and math exams. By contrast, their results suggest that investments in rental housing have little, if any, effect.
The Path Not Taken: How Does School Organization Affect 8th Grade Achievement?
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Leanna Stiefel, Ross Rubenstein and Jeffrey Zabel
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33 (3): 293-317
Although rearranging school organizational features is a popular school reform, little research exists to inform policymakers about how grade spans affect achievement. This article examines how grade spans and the school transitions that students make between fourth and eighth grade shape student performance in eighth grade. The authors estimate the impact of grade span paths on eighth-grade performance, controlling for school and student characteristics and correcting for attrition bias and quality of original school. They find that students moving from K–4 to 5–8 schools or in K–8 schools outperform students on other paths. Results suggest four possible explanations for the findings—the number and timing of school changes, the size of within-school cohorts, and the stability of peer cohorts.
School Cost Accounting: What Do We Know and How Do We Get There?
Denison Dwight, William Hartman, Leanna Stiefel and Michele Deegan
Public Management Review, 35 (1): 29-53
This paper describes a model for assessing and reporting schoollevel resources. State and local decision-makers have been seeking ways to obtain such information for more than a decade, but there is as yet no easy, accessible way to do so and no way to satisfy both internal and external users of the information. The model, based on case studies in Pennsylvania (with successful replication in New York), resolves many of the issues. The seven principles that guide the model are explained, challenges in developing school-level reports are generalized, and resolutions to the challenges in three states are compared. The conclusion draws out implications for the future of regularly collected school resource data.
Age of Entry and the High School Performance of Immigrant Youth
Leanna Stiefel, Amy Ellen Schwartz and Dylan Conger
Journal of Urban Economics. 67 (3). 303-14
In 2005, immigrants exceeded 12% of the US population, with the highest concentrations in large metropolitan areas. While considerable research has focused on how immigrants affect local wages and housing prices, less research has asked how immigrants fare in US urban public schools. Previous studies find that foreign-born students outperform native-born students in their elementary and middle school years, but urban policymakers and practitioners continue to raise concerns about educational outcomes of immigrants arriving in their high school years.
The authors use data on a large cohort of New York City (NYC) public high school students to examine how the performance of students who immigrate during high school (teen immigrants) differs from that of students who immigrate during middle school (tween immigrants) or elementary school (child immigrants), relative to otherwise similar native-born students. Contrary to prior studies, our difference-in-difference estimates suggest that, ceteris paribus, teen immigrants do well compared to native-born migrants, and that the foreign-born advantage is relatively large among the teen (im)migrants. That said, our findings provide cause for concern about the performance of limited English proficient students, blacks and Hispanics and, importantly, teen migrants. In particular, switching school districts in the high school years – that is, student mobility across school districts – may be more detrimental than immigration per se. Results are robust to alternative specifications and cohorts, including a cohort of Miami students.
Making Research in Education Finance and Policy Matter Now
Amy Ellen Schwartz
Education Finance and Policy, 5 (1), 1-13
Research in education finance and policy has flourished over the past twenty years as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and a wide range of school reform efforts spurred demand for scientific evidence identifying “what works.” Research funding has been generous, buoyed by both favorable economic conditions and the sense that research will provide solutions to persistent problems in American schooling. It has been a good time for education research.
In the end, the key to making education policy research matter is asking questions that matter-about pressing problems that affect large numbers of students in a broad range of circumstances-and providing useful answers and solutions that are feasible, practical, and implementable under realistic circumstances. Why do some students succeed while others do not? What can and what should the public sector do about it? These are the fundamental questions.
New Directions in Measuring Racial Isolation in School
Education and Urban Society. 42:307-34
This article offers new directions in measuring racial isolation in schools. The most widely used measurement approach is to examine the mean on the distribution of school percentage non-White across non-White students (the isolation rate) or the percentage of non-White students in schools with large shares of non-Whites (e.g., 90% or more) at a single point in time. Using data on New York City public school students, the author discusses the complexity that is revealed when school officials and researchers consider the following three dimensions of racial isolation: between classrooms, over time, and among non-White students.
Public Schools, Public Housing: The Education of Children Living in Public Housing
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Brian J. McCabe, Ingrid Gould Ellen and Colin C. Chellman
Urban Affairs Review, 46(1), 68-89
In the United States, public housing developments are predominantly located in neighborhoods with low median incomes, high rates of poverty and disproportionate concentrations of minorities. While research consistently shows that public housing developments are located in economically and socially disadvantaged neighborhoods, we know little about the characteristics of the schools serving students living in public housing. In this paper, the authors examine the characteristics of elementary and middle schools attended by students living in public housing developments in New York City. Using the proportion of public housing students attending each elementary and middle school as our weight, they calculate the weighted average of school characteristics to describe the typical school attended by students living in public housing. They then compare these characteristics to those of the typical school attended by other students throughout the city in an effort to assess whether students living in public housing attend systematically different schools than other students. The authors find no large differences between the resources of the schools attended by students living in public housing and the schools attended by their peers living elsewhere in the city; however, they find significant differences in student characteristics and performance on standardized exams. These school differences, however, fail to fully explain the performance disparities amongst students. These results point to a need for more nuanced analyses of the policies and practices in schools, as well as the outside-of-school factors that shape educational success, to identify and address the needs of students in public housing.