Panel: The Unintended Effects of Education Policy: Learning More with Better Data

Thursday, November 2, 2017: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Comiskey (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Shaun M Dougherty, University of Connecticut
Panel Chairs:  Ron Zimmer, University of Kentucky
Discussants:  Gary Henry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Cara Jackson, Montgomery County Public Schools

Education Policy and Mental Health
Joshua Hyman, University of Connecticut

Do Colleges Use High School Accountability Information to Inform Undergraduate Admissions?
Dennis Kramer1, Shaun M Dougherty2 and Samuel Kamin2, (1)University of Florida, (2)University of Connecticut

School Discipline, Crime and the New Orleans School Reforms
Monica Hernandez1, Stephen Barnes2 and Douglas N. Harris1, (1)Tulane University, (2)Louisiana State University

The study of policy impacts understandably preferences a focus on determining whether policies generate the desired outcomes. However, policies often have unintended consequences, some positive, some negative. Policy makers and academics have long studied the unintended effects of education policies on students, educators, and families, but increased access to high quality data has improved our ability to understand such effects, particularly in areas outside the focal domain of those policies. Specifically, increased access to data on low-stakes tests, higher-education, crime, and health, and the ability to integrate it with data from PK-12 has improved the ability of policy makers to identify broader, unintended effects of their policies.

In this panel, we showcase how innovative combining and expanding of existing data is valuable when applied to understanding unintended policy effects that spillover into domains outside those intended as targets by policy makers. Using a rich variety of datasets, each of the papers identifies and unpacks salient dimensions of unintended consequences arising from education policies. In the first paper, the author capitalizes on the availability of rich micro data on low-stakes testing from one of the nation’s largest school districts, and combines it with state policy data on mandated grade retention, showing positive effects on student effort as a result of the retention incentive. The second paper uses a nationally representative database on high stakes testing, and student mental health to show the negative causal effect of adopting high stakes tests on student anxiety and self-perception. In the third paper, authors join university application data to measures of K-12 high-stakes accountability performance data from Florida, to show that students who attend schools who received a more negative performance rating were less likely to apply to college. Finally, the fourth paper seeks to improve the rigor of research on the school-to-prison pipeline, and uses school discipline and crime data to show how post-Katrina reforms in New Orleans impacted student experience. Together, the panel showcases how adding new data sources to those typically used to answer questions of education policy impact, can reveal additional, unintended, policy effects.

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