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The Atlanta Empowerment Zone: Description, Impact, and Lessons for Evaluation

March 22, 2011

This report analyzes the impact of the Atlanta Empowerment Zone on resident outcomes.

A Non-Experimental Evaluation of Curriculum Effectiveness in Math

May 1, 2010

We use non-experimental data from a large panel of schools and districts in Indiana to evaluate the impacts of math curricula on student achievement. Using matching methods, we obtain causal estimates of curriculum effects at just a fraction of what it would cost to produce experimental estimates. Furthermore, external validity concerns that are particularly cogent in experimental curricular evaluations suggest that our non-experimental estimates may be preferred. In the short term, we find large differences in effectiveness across some math curricula. However, as with many other educational inputs, the effects of math curricula do not persist over time. Across curriculum adoption cycles, publishers that produce less effective curricula in one cycle do not lose market share in the next cycle. One explanation for this result is the dearth of information available to administrators about curricular effectiveness.

The Impacts of Gifted and Talented Education

October 1, 2009

This paper estimates the impact of gifted and talented program participation on academic achievement and peer composition for a sample of 8th grade students. Gifted education provides children that have been identified as having high ability in some intellectual respect with a supplemental curriculum to their traditional school course work. Participation in gifted programs is not random, so OLS estimates are biased by the presence of unobserved heterogeneity which is correlated with participation status as well as outcomes. To obtain causal estimates, I use an instrumental variables approach where the instrument is a self-constructed measure of how well each child fulfills the criteria his/her school uses to admit students into the gifted program, relative to the child's peers. The IV estimates indicate that, in the short run, participation is associated with a significant increase in math standardized test score performance. In the long run, participation is found to increase the probability a child takes Advanced Placement classes. There is no evidence that participation influences the composition of a child's peer group.

The Impact of School Lunch Length on Children's Health

April 1, 2009

The large number of overweight children in the U.S. has led school administrators and researchers to examine how aspects of the school environment affect children's dietary behavior and health. In addition to consuming nutrient rich food and exercising regularly, nutritionists have suggested that it is important for children to have an adequate amount of time to eat meals. This is because individuals only begin to feel full twenty minutes after they start eating, and as a result, those with a short meal period are more likely to overeat because they do not recognize that they are full within the meal period. This paper examines whether the length of time children are assigned to eat lunch in school has an impact on their nutritional health (as measured by BMI) using data from the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment-III. A parsimonious OLS specification suggests that a ten minute increase in a child's assigned lunch length significantly decreases the probability of being overweight by 1.83 percentage points and reduces BMI by 0.187 points. These results may be biased if there are unobserved characteristics of children and/or schools which are correlated with lunch length and are predictors of BMI. I address this endogeneity in two ways: First, I include an exhaustive set of controls for schools' nutrition policies and children's diet and exercise behavior that are intended to proxy for these unobserved characteristics. The results indicate a similar impact of lunch length: A 1.86 percentage point decrease in the probability of being overweight and a 0.194 reduction in BMI. Second, I include school fixed effects which control for factors that are common to children attending the same school, and find a 10 minute increase in lunch length predicts a 0.227 point decrease in BMI. Although the identification strategy cannot control for the non-random selection of children into schools, the proximity of these estimates to the initial results suggests that there is indeed a negative impact of short lunch length on health. Moreover, this observed relationship does not seem to be explained by unobserved differences among children and schools with different lunch lengths.