NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by John Papay

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Working Papers

December 2011Does Practice-Based Teacher Preparation Increase Student Achievement? Early Evidence from the Boston Teacher Residency
with Martin R. West, Jon B. Fullerton, Thomas J. Kane: w17646
The Boston Teacher Residency is an innovative practice-based preparation program in which candidates work alongside a mentor teacher for a year before becoming a teacher of record in Boston Public Schools. We find that BTR graduates are more racially diverse than other BPS novices, more likely to teach math and science, and more likely to remain teaching in the district through year five. Initially, BTR graduates for whom value-added performance data are available are no more effective at raising student test scores than other novice teachers in English language arts and less effective in math. The effectiveness of BTR graduates in math improves rapidly over time, however, such that by their fourth and fifth years they out-perform veteran teachers. Simulations of the program’s overall impa...
June 2011How Performance Information Affects Human-Capital Investment Decisions: The Impact of Test-Score Labels on Educational Outcomes
with Richard J. Murnane, John B. Willett: w17120
Students receive abundant information about their educational performance, but how this information affects future educational-investment decisions is not well understood. Increasingly common sources of information are state-mandated standardized tests. On these tests, students receive a score and a label that summarizes their performance. Using a regression-discontinuity design, we find persistent effects of earning a more positive label on the college-going decisions of urban, low-income students. Consistent with a Bayesian-updating model, these effects are concentrated among students with weaker priors, specifically those who report before taking the test that they do not plan to attend a four-year college.
High-School Exit Examinations and the Schooling Decisions of Teenagers: A Multi-Dimensional Regression-Discontinuity Analysis
with John B. Willett, Richard J. Murnane: w17112
We ask whether failing one or more of the state-mandated high-school exit examinations affects whether students graduate from high school. Using a new multi-dimensional regression-discontinuity approach, we examine simultaneously scores on mathematics and English language arts tests. Barely passing both examinations, as opposed to failing them, increases the probability that students graduate by 7.6 percentage points. The effects are greater for students scoring near each cutoff than for students further away from them. We explain how the multi-dimensional regression-discontinuity approach provides insights over conventional methods for making causal inferences when multiple variables assign individuals to a range of treatments.
July 2008The Consequences of High School Exit Examinations for Struggling Low-Income Urban Students: Evidence from Massachusetts
with Richard J. Murnane, John B. Willett: w14186
The growing prominence of high-stakes exit examinations has made questions about their effects on student outcomes increasingly important. We take advantage of a natural experiment to evaluate the causal effects of failing a high-stakes test on high school completion for the cohort scheduled to graduate from Massachusetts high schools in 2006. With these exit examinations, states divide a continuous performance measure into dichotomous categories, so students with essentially identical performance may have different outcomes. We find that, for low-income urban students on the margin of passing, failing the 10th grade mathematics examination reduces the probability of on-time graduation by eight percentage points. The large majority (89%) of students who fail the 10th grade mathematics exam...

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