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Lesson from Louisiana, and other research

Editor’s note: This is an occasional series highlighting recent research in education. Education News Colorado is asking experts – researchers in the field – to help sort out what’s worth noting among the many reports, studies and papers surfacing in K-12 and higher education.

This list was compiled by Kristin Klopfenstein, executive director of the Education Innovation Institute at the University of Northern Colorado:

“Education researchers continue to push on what we think we know, and this list of papers represents a taste of what’s been circulating in recent weeks. This list is not intended to be exhaustive — it is from a narrow list of sources written mostly by economists. Neither EII nor UNC endorses the views expressed in these papers, but they are worth a look if they touch on topics of interest to you.”

How school choice can reduce crime
Deming, David J. 2012. Does School Choice Reduce Crime? Evidence from North Carolina. Education Next, 12(2). “Though test scores are widely recognized as imperfect indicators of quality schooling, too few papers search for other ways to measure the effects of education on students’ lives. This paper is a nice example of the author’s recent work studying reductions in criminal behavior as an outcome of education. Deming finds that even when school choice yields no impact on student test scores, it can lead to significant reductions in criminal behavior. This piece demonstrates why it is important to devote the necessary time and money to connect schooling data with data from other systems, such as workforce, health, and human services, that measure long-run life outcomes.”

School principals’ impact on student achievement
Branch, Gregory F., Eric A. Hanushek, and Steven G. Rivkin. 2012. Estimating the Effect of Leaders on Public Sector Productivity: The Case of School Principals. NBER Working Paper No. 17803. “This paper shows that school leaders have a distinct effect on student achievement growth separate from that of teachers, especially in high poverty schools. While this paper does demonstrate the value of linking principals’ evaluations to students’ academic growth, it doesn’t shed any light on the specific behaviors and practices that effective principals use to achieve success beyond some suggestive evidence that they select and retain quality teachers.”

How teacher turnover harms low-performing schools
Ronfeldt, Matthew, Susanna Loeb, Jim Wyckoff. 2012. How Teacher Turnover Harms Student Achievement. Paper presented at CALDER conference. “The notion that teacher turnover harms student achievement has recently been challenged by studies showing that departing teachers tend to be among the least effective. This has led some to the conclusion that, assuming departing teachers are replaced by better ones, turnover could lead to increases in student achievement. This paper identifies a separate adverse effect of teacher turnover using data from New York City public schools. The authors find that turnover can deal a triple-whammy to low-performing schools: they are the schools for which turnover rates tend to be the highest, where experienced departing teachers tend to be replaced by less experienced new teachers, and where the disruptive effects of turnover are the greatest.”

Student borrowing for college is not too high
Avery, Christopher, and Sarah Turner. 2012. Student Loans: Do College Students Borrow Too Much — Or Not Enough? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(1):165–192. “The authors find that, with the possible exception of for-profit colleges, student borrowing for college is not “too high.” Even if the economy caused the higher education earnings premium to drop to record low levels, the expected rate of return to attending college is expected to be large enough to justify substantial borrowing.”

High school IB programs pay off in college
Coca, Vanessa, David W. Johnson, Thomas Kelley-Kemple, Melissa Roderick, Eliza Moeller, Nicole Williams, and Kafi Moragne. 2012. Working to My Potential: The Postsecondary Experiences of CPS Students in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Consortium on Chicago School Research, Chicago. “Melissa Roderick and her team at CCSR study the effectiveness of Chicago’s IB program, which has been targeted toward students traditionally underrepresented in college. They find that students who spend a full four years with an IB cohort, regardless of whether they actually earn the rigorous IB diploma, develop academic and social tools that serve them well in college admissions and persistence. Even though the students rarely earned college credit or advanced standing as a result of their IB experience, their well-developed core academic skills (particularly analytic writing skills), academic behaviors and strategies, academic self-image and the value of having an academic community set them up to be significantly more successful in college than similar peers in schools where the IB program was not available.”

Learning from Louisiana on evaluating teacher prep programs
K.A. Gansle, G.H. Noell, J.M. Burns. 2012. Do Student Achievement Outcomes Differ Across Teacher Preparation Programs? An Analysis of Teacher Education in Louisiana. Journal of Teacher Education, posted online March 19. “Under SB 10-036, teacher prep programs in Colorado are required to examine the performance of their graduates in terms of the academic outcomes of the K-12 students they teach. Louisiana started this process a decade ago and it has paved the way for other states, at least in terms of linking prep programs to student test scores. This article explains what, why, and how Louisiana did what it did and provides a starting point for conversations in Colorado about defining measures beyond just test scores to evaluate teacher prep programs.”

Keeping up with the latest research

How do you track the newest findings in education research?

How can you tell when a study is done well – or serving as a front for a predictable point of view?

Education News Colorado hopes this new occasional feature, Research in Review, will help.

We’re asking education researchers in Colorado to help us sort through all the reports, studies and papers making news – or circulating through our in-boxes – and figure out what’s worth an investment in time.

If you’d like to participate, or you have a suggestion for a researcher we should ask, let us know at ednews@EdNewsColorado.org.