My research statement is available here in pdf format.
Primary research interests: Economics of Education, Education Policy, Applied Econometrics, Program EvaluationDissertation:
- "Evaluating Student Outcomes Using the Bridge to Algebra Math Cognitive Tutor"
Comment: My dissertation includes pieces from the published paper and both working papers listed below, in addition to more recent work evaluating the students' use of hints in the Cognitive Tutor.
- "Bounding the Treatment Effects of Education Programs That Have Lotteried Admission and Selective Attrition" with J. Engberg, D. Epple, H. Sieg, and R. Zimmer, Journal of Labor Economics (forthcoming in 2014)
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to estimate sharp bounds on treatment effects of education programs that ration excess demand by admission lotteries when selective attrition cannot be ignored. Differential attrition arises in these models because students that lose the lottery are more likely to pursue educational options outside the school district. When students leave the district, important outcome variables are often not observed. Selective attrition implies that treatment effects are not point identified. We provide a new estimator that exploits known quantiles of the outcome distribution to construct informative bounds on treatment effects. We apply our methods to study the effectiveness of magnet programs in a mid-sized urban school district. Our findings show that magnet programs help the district to attract and retain students. The bound estimates demonstrate that magnet programs offered by the district improve behavioral outcomes such as offenses, timeliness, and attendance.
- "The Efficacy of a Pre-Algebra Cognitive Tutor in Chile and Mexico" (Job Market Paper) with I. Casas, P. Goodman, and L. Quintero (under review at Economics of Education Review)
- "A Cognitive Tutoring Strategy for Math Teaching and Learning in Latin America" with I. Casas and A. Vergara (under review at Teaching and Teacher Education)
Abstract: A math cognitive tutor (MCT) system widely used throughout the U.S. was adapted for use in Chilean and Mexican public middle schools. The curriculum requires large changes in pedagogy, including the use of computers for individual students to progress through an extended pre-algebra program. The study was conducted over a 6-month time period. Using a hierarchical linear model (HLM), we show that students enrolled in schools which were randomly assigned to adopt the MCT significantly improved their standardized math test scores as compared to control group peers. However, the implementation of the changes in the schools and classrooms was not perfect. Those schools which were better prepared to make changes, especially those with sufficient computers and technical support services, saw their students master more of the software part of the curriculum. Students and teachers generally viewed the MCT positively. The results on math performance and attitudes are promising for further propagation of the MCT curriculum. Knowledge from this study regarding the structure and implementation required for schools to successfully exploit the unique teaching capabilities of the MCT should guide the future diffusion of this specific technology.
Abstract: Cognitive tutoring technology has been extensively used in the United States, where it has proven useful at increasing students' mathematics skills. However, reports of the usage of this technology in other regions are scarce. Given the urgent need to improve public education in Latin America, we have adapted and experimented with this technology in three countries (Chile, Mexico, and Ecuador) to learn if it is effective for mathematics learning at the middle school level (5th-8th grade). We discuss difficulties and lessons learned in the process of training teachers in the use of the new pedagogical strategies supported by this technology.
- "The Impact of Exam Wrappers in an Introductory Economics Course" with B. Davis
- "Estimating the Civic Treatment Effects of Specialized Education Programs"
- "NFL Survivor Pools - Plan or Choose Greedily?" with D. Bergman
Comment: Exam wrappers are surveys given to students after they have taken and received feedback on exams. They are meant to encourage students to investigate their preparation and performance on the exam. Instead of worrying about a single score or grade as the only outcome of value, exam wrappers force students to "think about their thinking" (improve metacognition), evaluate study techniques, and determine areas of strengths and weaknesses on the assessment. We adminsistered exam wrappers to all students after they completed their first test in an introductory economics course. Using a matching estimation technique that compared those who completed the exam wrapper to those who did not, we investigated whether the completion of an exam wrapper in this course led to a subsequent increase in future exam performance. The initial results are encouragaing, though the selection bias inherent in a matching design is less than desirable. In order to increase the internal validity of our study, in later iterations we will use a regression discontinuity design and only make the exam wrapper available to students scoring below average on the first exam. We can then compare the future exam performance of a subset of students just below the first exam average to a subset just above it (who did receive the exam wrapper) to measure the exam wrapper's effectiveness at teaching and facilitating the transfer of study skills.
Comment: Public schools are a particularly important setting for developing students into adults committed to responsible citizenship. Although "good citizenship" may constitute somewhat different meanings for different people, there are a number of criteria that are broadly agreed upon in the United States: voting, avoiding criminal behavior, volunteering, and respecting and serving in the military. In addition, marriage has a significant and positive social and economic impact on individuals and society at large. The goal of this paper is to estimate the ability of specialized school programs to promote a sense of civics in their students, as reflected years later in life by voting, crime, and marriage behavior. The initial results show that high school magnet programs geared toward civic engagement in a mid-sized urban district in the early half of the decade of the 2000s did not produce students any more likely than their neighborhood public school peers to vote, marry, or avoid criminal behavior over the next 6-10 years.
Comment: National Football League (NFL) survivor pools are a form of gambling that require a participant to choose one winning team each week of the NFL season, without choosing the same winner more than once. The participant who lasts the longest without choosing incorrectly wins the survivor pool. In this paper, we first develop an easy way to assign win probabilities to each game of the NFL season using only the information given by ESPN.com's week by week team rankings. We then investigate whether participants should be greedy and pick the highest probability winner each week, or plan their season long strategy as a maxi-min solution (choose the strategy that maximizes the minimum win probability for all chosen teams over the course of the season) and then re-adjust each week. Given that most survivor pools contain participants who last far into the season, we found that a strategy that looks a few weeks ahead (run maxi-min for four weeks) allows participants to survive the longest, on average.
"The Intergenerational Conflict Over the Provision of Public Education" by D. Epple, R. Romano, and H. Sieg
"Evaluating the Effects of a Magnet Program," The American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, April 2009
"Evaluating Educational Programs That Have Lotteried Admission and Selective Attrition," The Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) Annual Conference, Seattle, WA, March 2011
"Examining Social and Technical Systems in the Classroom: Pre-Algebra Performance Using the Math Cognitive Tutor Software," The Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) Annual Conference, Boston, MA, March 2012