Date of Award

8-13-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Dr. Tim Sass

Second Advisor

Dr. Barry Hirsch

Third Advisor

Dr. Tom Mroz

Fourth Advisor

Dr. C. Kevin Fortner

Abstract

This dissertation's essays exploit longitudinal data sets to provide evidence on education economics topics of school choice, social-emotional learning curriculum, and teacher hiring.

Chapter 1 estimates the causal effect of full-time virtual school attendance on student outcomes. I use a longitudinal data set composed of individual-level information on all public-school students and teachers throughout Georgia from 2007 to 2016 and implement individual fixed effect and semi-parametric cell analysis to investigate how attending virtual schools influences student outcomes. I find that attending a virtual school leads to a reduction in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies achievement test scores for students in elementary and middle school. I also find that ever attending a virtual school is associated with a 10-percentage point reduction in the probability of ever graduating from high school.

Chapter 2 examines the impact of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum on student achievement over a three-year period in an urban district. I use a longitudinal data set composed of individual-level information of students and teacher. I implement a staggered difference-in-difference approach to estimate the causal effect of implementing SEL program on student outcomes. I find that the program does not impact attendance, discipline, nor test scores across the elementary and middle school grades. For high school students, the program leads to a reduction of the number of incidents, an increase in attendance, and no statistical impact on end-of-course exams nor on graduation.

Chapter 3 evaluates the predictive power of the non-cognitive traits measured in TeacherInsightTM (TI) testing tool in comparison to other measures of prospective teachers' abilities, like educational credentials, and certifications. I implement regression analysis to evaluate the relationship between teachers' non-cognitive skills (TI score), value-added test score, and observational score. I find that the Teacher Insight Score does not do a good job at predicting which teachers will be effective as measured by the teacher's value-added score. In contrast, the Teacher Insight Score and the observational score have a positive relationship. More specifically, a one-point increase in Teacher Insight score is associated with a .04 increase in teacher observation score.

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