Education and Evidence
Teacher Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from New York City
Roland Fryer, NBER Working Paper, March 2011
Abstract: Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an
increasingly popular education policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student achievement. I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of theories that may explain these stark results.
The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Students, Teachers, and Schools
Thomas Dee & Brian Jacob
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Fall 2010, Pages 149-194
Abstract: The controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) brought test-based school
accountability to scale across the United States. This study draws together results from multiple data sources to identify how the new accountability systems developed in response to NCLB have influenced student achievement, school-district finances, and measures of school and teacher practices. Our results indicate that NCLB brought about targeted gains in the mathematics achievement of younger students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, we find no evidence that NCLB improved student achievement in reading. School-district expenditure increased significantly in response to NCLB, and these increases were not matched by federal revenue. Our results suggest that NCLB led to increases in teacher compensation and the share of teachers with graduate degrees. We find evidence that NCLB shifted the allocation of instructional time toward math and reading, the subjects targeted by the new accountability systems.
Starting the Wrong Conversations: The Public School Crisis and “Waiting for
Katy Swalwell & Michael Apple, Educational Policy, March 2011, Pages 368-382
Abstract: The documentary “Waiting for Superman” has become one of those rare things,
a (supposed) documentary that generates a wider audience. It also is one of the more recent embodiments of what Nancy Fraser (1989) labels as the “politics of needs and needs discourses.” Dominant groups listen carefully to the language and issues that come from below. They then creatively appropriate the language and issues in such a way that very real problems expressed by multiple movements are reinterpreted through the use of powerful groups’ understandings of the social world and of how we are to solve “our” problems. This is exactly what is happening in education; and it is exactly what this film tries to accomplish. We critically examine the arguments and assumptions that the film makes, as well as how it makes them. In the process, we demonstrate how it elides crucial questions, contradicts many of its own claims, and acts to close off the kinds of substantive discussions that are essential for serious educational reforms.