economics of the metropolitan area 212g spring 2013 n.
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Economics of the metropolitan area 212G, Spring 2013. Professor: Keren Mertens Horn Office: Wheatley 5-78B Office Hours: TR 2:30-4:00 pm E-mail: Boston school districts. Boston schools.

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economics of the metropolitan area 212g spring 2013
Economics of the metropolitan area212G, Spring 2013

Professor: Keren Mertens Horn

Office: Wheatley 5-78B

Office Hours: TR 2:30-4:00 pm


boston schools
Boston schools
  • Based on what we learned regarding agglomeration, we may expect schools in the center of Boston to be the highest performing, but based on the map this is not the case.
  • Why do you think that schools in Boston perform worse than schools outside of Boston?


why are urban public schools failing
Why are urban public schools failing?
  • Resources:
    • Schools are financed at the school district level, so rich school districts can often spend more on schools than poor school districts
    • In Boston, we see that the city spends more per student than some of the highest performing suburban school districts


why are urban public schools failing1
Why are urban public schools failing?
  • Poverty in Cities:
    • High concentrations of low income families who generally send their children to public schools, leads to high concentration of poor students in urban public schools



Students living in households earning below 185% of the poverty line are eligible for free or reduced price lunch

why are urban public schools failing2
Why are urban public schools failing?
  • History:
    • In the 1970s when schools were being desegregated, Miliken v. Bradley (Supreme Court Case) established that school systems were not required to desegregate across school district lines
    • This meant that white/middle class families could move to the suburbs and avoid all the problems associated with desegregating urban public schools.
how are we trying to address these challenges
How are we trying to address these challenges?
  • School Focused Reforms:
    • Increased accountability – i.e. testing, No Child Left Behind
    • Increasing choice within urban school districts – i.e. charter and magnet schools, variety of school zoning systems, and voucher programs
    • Attracting high quality teachers to urban school districts – i.e. Teach for America, Merit Pay
  • Neighborhood Focused Reforms:
    • Community Development Programs – i.e. Harlem Children’s Zone
    • Poverty De-concentration Policies – i.e. Inclusionary Zoning, Section 8 Housing Vouchers
challenges with improving education
Challenges with Improving education
  • Economists use a production function to describe how learning occurs:
    • Academic Achievement = Student Quality + School Quality + Peer Quality
    • (A production function tells you how much of different inputs translate into the maximum possible output of your final product)
  • Problems associated with reforming the ‘production’ of a school:
    • What is the “maximum” output of a school? How do we measure this?
    • What is the most critical input in this model?
    • Each input is also a function of many other inputs
      • ie Student quality depends on many interrelated factors, like their work ethic, family background and educational history
challenges with improving education1
Challenges with improving education
  • Principal/Agent problems
    • These problems arise in environments characterized by incomplete and unevenly distributed information (ex/School)
    • School teacher/principal may know if they are doing a good job, but we (parents, school district administrators, government officials) may not be able to tell
    • In the absence of monitoring the agent has an incentive to shirk responsibilities (ie spend less time doing their job and more time on leisure activities)
    • Economists response is to design a system of incentives that align the agents’ time management decisions with the organization’s goals
no child left behind 2002
No Child left behind (2002)
  • Signed by President Bush in 2002
  • Significantly expanded federal government’s influence over the nation’s more than 90,000 schools
  • Hallmark Features:
    • Annual assessments of school performance identifying schools that fail to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP)
    • Institute system of sanctions and rewards based on AYP status (including closing failing schools)
    • Publicize information associated with school’s performance
  • How does it attempt to overcome obstacles associated with education?
    • Standardized tests are assumed to represent an assessment of student skills (focus on the desired outcomes of a ‘good’ education)
    • By providing school administrators and teachers with strong incentives to produce results on these exams, we can increase the likelihood that these actors will not shirk responsibilities (moral hazard) and more likely provide a ‘good’ education
is nclb working
iSnclb working?
  • Many criticisms:
    • Standardized tests do not appropriately capture what we want our students to learn
    • Increased accountability leads to increased ‘teaching to the test’
    • Creates incentives for teacher cheating (ex/Atlanta, Philadelphia)
  • But some evidence that it has led to increased student performance:
    • Dee and Jacob (2011) find NCLB increased average math performance of fourth graders, but no evidence that NCLB increased average fourth grade reading achievement
charter schools
Charter schools
  • Charter schools arepublicly funded schools, governed by a group or organization under a legislative contract (or charter) with the state or school district
  • The charter exempts the school from selected state or local rules and regulations (ex/some Charter schools can hire teachers outside of the teachers union)
  • School’s charter is reviewed periodically (typically every 3-5 years) and can be revoked if guidelines are not followed
  • In exchange for flexibility they receive less funding than traditional public schools (often only per student funds and no facilities funding)


charter schools1
Charter schools
  • Rationale for provision of charter schools:
    • Public Schools can act as a monopoly, since most families cannot afford private schools and may only have access to one public school
    • Bureaucracies associated with public schools can often stifle innovation
    • Encourages parent engagement, since parents can now choose between a range of schools
  • Criticisms of charter schools:
    • Difficult to enforce provisions of the charter, leading to very little accountability
    • Educate a lower share of students with disabilities, as these students are more expensive to educate
    • Siphons high performing students away from traditional public schools, leaving traditional public schools in even worse positions
charter schools in ma2
Charter schools in ma
  • In comparison to traditional public schools (TPS)
    • Reading:
      • 44% of charter schools studied outperform their TPS counterparts
      • 13% of charter schools have significantly lower learning gains
    • Math:
      • 56% of charter schools studied outperform their TPS peers
      • 17% of charter schools have significantly lower learning gains
  • In Boston:
    • 83% of the charter schools studied have significantly more positive learning gains than their TPS counterparts in reading and math
    • No charter schools have significantly lower learning gains


characteristics of effective charter schools
Characteristics of effective charter schools
  • Roland Fryer (professor of Economics at Harvard) recently conducted a study identifying 5 characteristics of the most successful NYC charter schools and worked to implement these reforms in public schools in Houston, TX and Denver, CO
  • The 5 Characteristics:
    • Focus on human capital – increasing support for teachers
    • Using student data to drive instruction – frequent assessments and time to meet with students after each assessment to revise learning plan
    • Providing high-dosage tutoring – all students in a school (or grade) should have access to tutors with at least a bachelor’s degree
    • Extending the time on task – increasing the hours spent in school and the number of days of school
    • Establishing a culture of high expectations – students should understand they are expected to succeed the teachers, administrators and staff are there to support them
discussion thursday
Discussion Thursday
  • If you were in the decision making position would you close Dyett High School? Why?
  • What is one reason researchers suggest that KIPP charter schools perform better than other charter schools?
  • Why does the author suggest we should worry about the end of the neighborhood school?