Category Archives: Education

Genes, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

Source: Nicholas W. Papageorge, Kevin Thom, NBER Working Paper No. 25114, September 2018
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From the abstract:
Recent advances have led to the discovery of specific genetic variants that predict educational attainment. We study how these variants, summarized as a linear index — known as a polygenic score — are associated with human capital accumulation and labor market outcomes in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We present two main sets of results. First, we find evidence that the genetic factors measured by this score interact strongly with childhood socioeconomic status in determining educational outcomes. In particular, while the polygenic score predicts higher rates of college graduation on average, this relationship is substantially stronger for individuals who grew up in households with higher socioeconomic status relative to those who grew up in poorer households. Second, the polygenic score predicts labor earnings even after adjusting for completed education, with larger returns in more recent decades. These patterns suggest that the genetic traits that promote education might allow workers to better accommodate ongoing skill biased technological change. Consistent with this interpretation, we find a positive association between the polygenic score and non-routine analytic tasks that have benefited from the introduction of new technologies. Nonetheless, the college premium remains the dominant determinant of earnings differences at all levels of the polygenic score. Given the role of childhood SES in predicting college attainment, this raises concerns about wasted potential arising from limited household resources.

Related:
It’s better to be born rich than gifted
Source: Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, Wonkblog, October 9, 2018

The least-gifted children of high-income parents graduate from college at higher rates than the most-gifted children of low-income parents.

The promise of free college (and its potential pitfalls)

Source: Douglas Harris, Raquel Farmer-Hinton, Debbie Kim, John B. Diamond, Tangela Blakely Reavis, Kelly Krupa Rifelj, Hilary Lustick, and Bradley R. Carl, Brookings Institution, September 2018

From the summary:
….This study examines one of the first randomized control trials of a program similar to many free college and promise scholarship proposals. The Degree Project was launched in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) in 2011. Students in 18 randomly selected high schools were promised up to $12,000 to pay for college, at essentially any in-state institution. These funds were sufficient to cover all tuition and fees at the local two-year college—making it a form of free or debt-free college. The funds could also be used to attend four-year colleges, covering more than one year of tuition, and fees. To receive the funds, students had to graduate on time from an MPS high school with at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA and a 90 percent class attendance rate, and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Degree Project had some impact on students’ motivation, college expectations, and steps toward college, such as applying to more colleges and FAFSA completion. However, it had no effect on the performance measures and no effect on whether students went directly on to college. The most recent evidence does suggest that the scholarship may have slightly increased persistence and graduation in two-year colleges, though not in four-year colleges. We are continuing to track these effects; however, it seems clear at this point that many of the potential benefits, during and just after high school, did not emerge.

Through additional quantitative and qualitative evidence, we identify three related reasons why the effects were not more substantial: (a) the performance requirements greatly reduced the number of students who could plausibly receive the funds; (b) the performance requirements, combined with the temporary, small-scale design, meant that the program did not have the catalyzing effect on high schools that otherwise similar programs have seen; and (c) the context in Milwaukee—particularly, the very low level of academic performance and lack of counselor resources— may have been particularly ill-suited to make a performance-based aid program work well.

In other words, this version of free college did not live up its potential in part because of the way it was designed. While we plan to continue studying the program in future years and more effects may emerge, our first decade of work suggests two key lessons:

1. Avoid performance requirements. Merit or performance requirements, though popular, seem to limit both the effectiveness and equity of financial aid. When students received The Degree Project funds, it increased their attendance and graduation somewhat, but the performance requirements meant that very few actually received any funding. So why have the requirements? The intent is to support and reward students who have the best chance to succeed in college, and therefore the smallest likelihood of dropping out with debt, but the result is essentially the opposite. Under almost any plausible assumptions, performance requirements reduce the number of college graduates more than they reduce the number who drop out with debt. A second possible argument for performance requirements is that they may induce students to work harder and become more academically prepared for college, but we find no evidence of this either. The main effect of performance requirements, then, is to provide more funds to higher-income families, which only reinforces existing disparities.

2. Use free college and other forms of financial aid to catalyze changes in high schools. Policy debates about financial aid tend to focus narrowly on how it makes college cheaper for the individual students who receive the funds. But to fully realize the effects of aid, it has to be leveraged to improve the college-going cultures of high schools. MPS high schools were not set up to make college a viable option for most students. The schools did not make a college prep curriculum or structured supports broadly available, or expect most students to attend college. The Degree Project, with its narrow focus on giving money to individual students, was not designed to address this larger problem and, as a result, it did not have the catalyzing effect on high schools that has been observed in other free college programs. The performance requirements made matters worse; by significantly narrowing the share of students who could benefit from the program, the requirements reduced the potential for positive “spillover effects” across students and educators. In short, for free college to fulfill its potential, policymakers need to leverage it to change high schools…..

2018 State of Early Childhood Data Systems

Source: Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC), 2018

In April 2018, 50 states responded to an Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC) survey to assess states’ capacity to link child-, family-, program-, and workforce-level data across ECE programs. Linking child-, family-, and program-level data means having the ability to follow individual children, programs, and staff across programs and over time. Data may be housed in different systems or within the same system. The 2018 Survey included questions about linking child-, program-, and workforce-level data; data governance and policies; and uses of coordinated early childhood data.

National findings and recommendations from the 2018 Early Childhood Data Systems Survey are available in our final report. Click here to explore an interactive map with state profiles containing child, program, and workforce data.

Trusting states to do right by special education students is a mistake

Source: Matthew Brock, The Conversation, September 28, 2018

On Sept. 20, the U.S. Department of Education released a new framework to “rethink” how the department oversees special education services for students with disabilities.

As part of this framework, the department plans to provide states with “flexibility” and to “acknowledge” that states are “in the best position to determine implementation of their programs.”

This flexibility relates to how states satisfy the provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – a federal civil rights law known as IDEA meant to ensure all students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education.

In my opinion, the assumption that states are in the best position to determine implementation of their programs related to the IDEA law is a faulty one. So is the notion that relaxing enforcement of these provisions would have a positive impact on students.

Reports: Free College Programs Don’t Benefit Low-Income Students

Source: Ashley A. Smith, Inside Higher Ed, September 6, 2018

Two nonpartisan research groups are urging policy makers to examine the details of tuition-free programs and make them more financially helpful for low-income students.

Related:
The State of Free College: Tennessee Promise and New York’s Excelsior Scholarship
Authors: Alain Poutre and Mamie Voight, Institute for Higher Education Policy, September 2018

From the summary:
As college costs steadily rise, students face unprecedented financial barriers as they pursue higher education. Many federal, state, and institutional policymakers tout free-college programs as solutions to addressing college affordability challenges. But IHEP analysis of two state free-college programs, Tennessee Promise and New York’s Excelsior Scholarship, show that to help low-income students afford college, free-college programs must be designed with equity at their core.

The State of Free College: Tennessee Promise and New York’s Excelsior Scholarship finds that neither Tennessee Promise nor the Excelsior Scholarship allocate scarce state funding to the students with the greatest need. To evaluate if these programs have improved college affordability, IHEP examined the net prices at public colleges in both states before and after the implementation of the free-college programs. The analyses assessed affordability for three student profiles with different financial means and different personal and household characteristics. The research found that both programs do little to remove affordability barriers for low-income students, and instead allocate limited funding to middle- and, in the case of Tennessee, high-income students.

A Promise Fulfilled: A Framework for Equitable Free College Programs
Source: Tiffany Jones and Katie Berger, The Education Trust, September 6, 2018

From the summary:
Each fall, millions of college students across the country start classes in hopes of earning their degree. However, the weight of steep tuition bills, rent, groceries, books, and other costs looming over their heads can often cut that dream short. The latest popular solution to help more students afford a degree, which is supported by policymakers and advocates alike, is “free college.”

But while “free college” sounds good at first, we need to ask, “Does this benefit students from low-income families who need it the most?” Unfortunately, right now the answer is “No. Not unless they are designed around equity.”

Low Pay Has Teachers Flocking to the Sharing Economy

Source: Alia Wong, The Atlantic, August 17, 2018

One in 10 Airbnb hosts in the U.S. is a teacher, a new report shows.

Airbnb, the popular platform that lets people rent out their homes and apartments, released the results of a volunteer survey this week containing the striking statistic that nearly one in 10 of its hosts in the United States is an educator. In some states the trend appears to be even more pronounced—more than a quarter of all Airbnb hosts in Utah and Wisconsin, for example, work as teachers or in education (the company includes in that category administrators and college professors). This is especially noteworthy given that an analysis of census and National Center for Education Statistics figures suggests that just less than 2 percent of adults in the country work as full-time K–12 teachers.

Many of these 45,000-plus educators in the U.S. are presumably using Airbnb to supplement their regular income, as teachers struggle with stagnant, if not declining, pay. The average annual salary for K–12 public-school teachers is roughly $58,000, and they typically spend a sizable chunk of that on classroom supplies integral to their jobs. Teachers’ frustration with the situation has become so acute that it drove educators en masse to the picket lines in certain parts of the country this past spring.

Improving Occupational Licensing with Sunrise and Sunset Reviews

Source: Iris Hentz, LegisBrief, Vol . 26, No. 25, July 2018

Occupational licensure is a regulatory method that requires people to secure a license from government in order to practice a certain trade or profession. When implemented effectively, occupational licensure helps protect public health and safety and improves the quality of goods and services.

Schools in Florida are spending thousands on active shooter insurance

Source: Sarika Ram, MuckRock, August 16, 2018

Recently released records show districts budgeting up to six figures on insurance policies, safety training, and police presence

High profile school shootings in recent years have offered enterprising insurance companies with a business opportunity – and burdened districts budgets with thousands of dollars in new expenses.

This school year, some Florida public school districts have invested in active shooter protection insurance policies and other security-related programming, such as active shooter response training.

According to the insurance policy obtained in a recent public records request, Palm Beach Public School District has paid a $100,000 premium to McGowan Program Administrators, a leader in the active shooter insurance industry, for active shooter protection this academic year.

They Say Their Buildings Are Making Them Sick. Administrators Say They’ve Done All They Can.

Source: Teghan Simonton, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 21, 2018

….Academic workplaces are not generally known for their environmental dangers. But at least a dozen faculty members say such dangers have become a central part of working at this mid-size public university in east-central Pennsylvania.

In at least three buildings, faculty members have for years complained about mold, water damage, humidity, climate control, asbestos, and radon. They’ve taken pictures. They’ve cataloged health issues like skin rashes, asthma, and allergies. They share suspicions that health problems caused by the buildings’ poor conditions could be much graver than just a cough here, a nosebleed there.

Mahoney, and others, say the university has money to fix the problems permanently but chooses to spend it elsewhere. The administration, however, disputes the severity or extent of the complaints raised by the faculty and some of the staff. They say the majority of issues are raised by just a “handful” of people with a higher-than-normal sensitivity to air quality. And, the administration says, many of them have not actually brought their issues and concerns to the administration….