"Special Education and English Language Learner Students in Boston Charter Schools: Impact and Classification," (Job Market Paper)
Press Coverage: MIT News, Boston Globe(1), Boston Globe(2), Boston Herald, CommonWealth(1), CommonWealth(2), NY Daily News, New Boston Post, State House News, Wall Street Journal, WBUR, The 74
Abstract: Special education and English Language Learners experience large achievement gaps and account for a disproportionate amount of school spending. Whether and how well charter schools serve special needs students remains a central controversy in the charter school debate. I use admissions lotteries from nearly every charter school in Boston to estimate the effects of charter enrollment on special needs students' classification and achievement. Charter schools remove special needs classifications and move special education students into more inclusive classrooms at a rate over two times higher than traditional public schools. Despite this reduction in special needs services, charters increase special needs students' test scores, likelihood of meeting a high school graduation requirement, and likelihood of earning a state merit scholarship. Charters benefit even the most disadvantaged special needs students: those with the lowest test scores and those who receive the most services at the time of lottery. Non-experimental evidence suggests that the classification removal explains at most 26 percent of the achievement gains for special needs students and has no detrimental effect. The results show that special needs students can achieve gains without the traditional set of special needs services in the charter environment.
"Can Successful Schools Replicate? Scaling Up Boston's Charter School Sector," (with Sarah Cohodes and Christopher Walters)
Press Coverage: Boston Globe
Abstract: In a climate of school turnarounds, charter conversions, and new school openings, an important question is whether schools that boost student outcomes can replicate their success at new campuses. We study a policy reform that allowed effective charter schools in Boston, Massachusetts to replicate their school models at new locations. Estimates based on randomized admission lotteries show that replicate charter schools generate large achievement gains on par with those produced by their parent campuses. The average effectiveness of Boston's charter middle school sector remained similar after the reform despite a doubling of charter market share. These findings indicate that the success of Boston's high-performing charter schools is driven by factors that can feasibly be reproduced at scale.
“Do Informal Referrals Lead to Better Matches? Evidence from a Firm’s Employee Referral System,” (with Meta Brown and Giorgio Topa), Journal of Labor Economics, 2016.
Press Coverage: New York Times
Abstract: Using a new firm-level data set that includes explicit information on referrals by current employees, we investigate the hiring process and the relationships among referrals, match quality, wage trajectories, and turnover for a single US corporation and test various predictions of theoretical models of labor market referrals. We find that referred candidates are more likely to be hired; experience an initial wage advantage, which dissipates over time; and have longer tenure in the firm. Further, the variances of the referred and nonreferred wage distributions converge over time. The observed referral effects appear to be stronger at lower skill levels. The data also permit analysis of the role of referrer-referee pair characteristics.
Research in Progress
"Race to the Tablet? The Impact of Personalized Tablet Educational Programs"
Abstract: The presence of tablets and laptops in schools has burgeoned in recent years, with 4.9 billion dollars spent on over 10.8 million devices in 2015. Schools invest in education technology that targets students' gaps in skills in the hopes of improving student outcomes. Despite the large and increasingly prevalent monetary and time investments in education technology, little causal evidence of its effectiveness exists. I use an RCT in two Boston charter schools and a triple differences framework in a large Midwestern school district to estimate the effect of a math and English Language Arts tablet educational program. I find that the personalized learning technology can substantially increase test scores, narrowing the math low-income achievement gap by up to 26%, but that effects vary by the time spent with the program. Students of varying ability experience similar effects – suggesting that the targeting of student's learning gaps promotes gains. This paper demonstrates the ability of technology to enhance student learning if students spend enough time with the educational technology. More work is needed to identify optimal amount of time for learning programs and the relative effectiveness of different education technology.
"The Impact of "Flipping the Classroom" on Academic Performance: Evidence from a Randomized Trial at the United States Military Academy," (with Kyle Greenberg, Michael Yankovich, Oliver Moore, Ryan Slocum, and Michael Walker)
Abstract: In a flipped classroom, an increasingly popular pedagogical model, students view a video lecture at home and work on exercises with the instructor during class time. Advocates of the flipped classroom claim the practice improves student learning by increasing student engagement, improving student-teacher interaction, and helping students master concepts through real-time feedback. We conduct a flipped classroom randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 1,300 students at West Point, in 30 sections of a core Economics and 50 sections of a core Mathematics course. The RCT is currently in progress and will identify the causal effect of the flipped classroom model on students' test scores and investigate potential mechanisms.
Selected Other Publications
“The Impact of the Financial Crisis on the Finances of the New York State Public Schools,” (with Rajashri Chakrabarti and Max Livingston), Economic Policy Review, 2015.
Press Coverage: Wall Street Journal, WNYC, Education Week
"In Search of Opportunity: Latino Men's Paths to Post-Secondary Education in Urban Massachusetts," (with Thomas E. Conroy, Mary Jo Marion, and Timothy E. Murphy), The Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation and The Boston Foundation, forthcoming.