Current Issue: Volume 14, Issue 3, Summer 2019

Education Finance and Policy - Volume 14, Issue 3, Spring 2019


Principal Effectiveness and Principal Turnover. Jason A. Grissom and Brendan Bartanen. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2019, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 355–382

Research demonstrates the importance of principal effectiveness for school performance and the potentially negative effects of principal turnover. However, we have limited understanding of the factors that lead principals to leave their schools or about the relative effectiveness of those who stay and those who turn over. We investigate the association between principal effectiveness and principal turnover using longitudinal data from Tennessee, a state that has invested in multiple measures of principal performance through its educator evaluation system. Using three measures of principal performance, we show that less-effective principals are more likely to turn over, on average, though we find some evidence that the most effective principals have elevated turnover rates as well. Moreover, we demonstrate the importance of differentiating pathways out of the principalship, which vary substantially by effectiveness. Low performers are more likely to exit the education system and to be demoted to other school-level positions, whereas high performers are more likely to exit and to be promoted to central office positions. The link between performance and turnover suggests that prioritizing hiring or placing effective principals in schools with large numbers of low-income or low-achieving students can serve to lower principal turnover rates in high-needs environments.

The Uneven Implementation of Universal School Policies: Maternal Education and Florida's Mandatory Grade Retention Policy. Christina LiCalsi, Umut Ozek, and David Figlio. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2019, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 383–413

Educational accountability policies are a popular tool to close the achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students. However, these policies may exacerbate inequality if families from advantaged backgrounds are better able to advocate for their children and thus circumvent policy. We investigate this possibility in the context of the early grade retention policy in Florida, which requires all students with reading skills below grade level to be retained in the third grade, yet grants exemptions under special circumstances. We find that Florida's third-grade retention policy is in fact enforced differentially depending on children's socioeconomic background, especially maternal education. Holding exemption eligibility constant, scoring right below the promotion cutoff results in an increase in the probability of retention that is 14 percent greater for children whose mothers have less than a high school degree compared with children whose mothers have a bachelor's degree or more. We also find that the discrepancies in retention rates are mainly driven by the fact that students with well-educated mothers are more likely to be promoted based on subjective exemptions, such as teacher portfolios.

No Excuses Charter Schools and College Enrollment: New Evidence from a High School Network in Chicago. Matthew Davis and Blake Heller. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2019, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 414–440

Although it is well known that certain charter schools dramatically increase students' standardized test scores, there is considerably less evidence that these human capital gains persist into adulthood. To address this matter, we match three years of lottery data from a high-performing charter high school to administrative college enrollment records and estimate the effect of winning an admissions lottery on college matriculation, quality, and persistence. Seven to nine years after the lottery, we find that lottery winners are 10.0 percentage points more likely to attend college and 9.5 percentage points more likely to enroll for at least four semesters. Unlike previous studies, our estimates are powerful enough to uncover improvements on the extensive margin of college attendance (enrolling in any college), the intensive margin (persistence of attendance), and the quality margin (enrollment at selective, four-year institutions). We conclude by providing nonexperimental evidence that more recent cohorts at other campuses in the network increased enrollment at a similar rate.

Donors and Founders on Charter School Boards and Their Impact on Financial and Academic Outcomes. Charisse A. Gulosino and Elif Şişli Ciamarra. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2019, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 441–471

This study provides the first systematic analysis of the composition of charter school governing boards. We assemble a dataset of charter school boards in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2013 and investigate the consequences of donor and founder representation on governing boards. We find that the presence of donors on the charter school boards is positively related to financial performance and attribute this result to the donors' strong monitoring incentives because of their financial stakes in the school. We also show that financial outcomes are not generated at the expense of academic outcomes, as the presence of donors on the boards is also associated with higher student achievement. Founder representation on charter school boards, on the other hand, is associated with lower financial performance but higher academic achievement.

College Major Choice and Neighborhood Effects in a Historically Segregated Society: Evidence from South Africa. Biniam E. Bedasso. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2019, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 472–491

This paper explores factors affecting the choice of investment in specific human capital in the presence of significant inter-group and spatial inequalities. I use four years of admissions application data at an elite university in South Africa in conjunction with quarterly labor force data to trace the link between aptitude-adjusted expected earnings, neighborhood effects, and the choice of college major. The paper relies on the availability of a rich set of academic and geographical information in the admissions database to make causal inference. The results show that expected earnings have a positive impact on major choice independently of high school background when the ex ante distribution of earnings captures the full range of between-major and within-major income differentials. White applicants are more responsive to differentials in expected earnings than black applicants. Neighborhood effects influence college major choice through near-peer role models and relative achievement at the high school level.

Raising the Bar for College Admission: North Carolina's Increase in Minimum Math Course Requirements. Charles T. Clotfelter, Steven W. Hemelt, and Helen F. Ladd. Education Finance and Policy Summer 2019, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 492–521

We explore the effects of a statewide policy change that increased the number of high school math courses required for admission to four-year public universities in North Carolina. Using data on cohorts of eighth-grade students from 1999 to 2006, we exploit variation by district over time in the math course-taking environment encountered by students. Purely as a result of a student's year of birth and location, students faced different probabilities of encountering a sequence of math courses sufficient to qualify for admission. Within an instrumental variables setup, we examine effects of this policy shift. We find that students took more math courses in high school following the state's announcement, with relatively larger increases for students in the middle and bottom quintiles of their eighth-grade math test scores. Our results suggest this increased math course-taking led to higher high school graduation rates. It also led to increases in enrollment rates at universities in the University of North Carolina system, with the largest increases being in the quintiles of student achievement from which universities were already drawing the bulk of their enrollees. Finally, we find scant evidence of boosts in post-enrollment college performance due to increased math course-taking in high school.