Education Finance Research Consortium

Year Eight Condition Reports, 2008-2009


"The Impact of Teaching Disruptions on Student Achievement"

Mariesa Hermann and Jonah Rockoff (Columbia University)

Condition Report


PowerPoint Presentation

About two percent of work time is lost annually in the U.S. due to worker absence, the vast majority of which is caused by poor worker health.  Poor health may significantly reduce productivity even if it does not result in absences.  The authors of this report use detailed panel data on teachers and students in New York City to study the impact of work disruptions on labor productivity.  Teaching is an attractive setting in which to study the impact of worker health and absences on productivity.  It is one of the largest occupations in the U.S. and a substantial body of research documents that teacher quality has a sizeable impact on students’ academic achievement.   Existing studies have generally assumed teachers work continuously over the school year, but, in practice, nearly all teachers are absent at some point each year and a significant fraction take extended periods of leave due to health shocks.  While a substitute teacher is present in the classroom during these disruptions in teaching, the authors find clear evidence that work disruptions have a significant negative impact on student achievement.  Extended work disruption prior to student exams is estimated to cause achievement to fall by 0.07 and 0.04 standard deviations in math and English, respectively.  These effects are roughly equivalent to moving from the 50th to the 30th percentile of the teacher quality distribution, or substituting a novice teacher for a teacher with four years of experience.   The authors estimate that an additional 10 absences prior to student exams reduces achievement by 0.022 and 0.008 standard deviations in math and English, respectively.   Teacher health also negatively impacts productivity.  There is a significant negative relationship between student achievement and teacher absences after the exam for illnesses that are certified by a doctor, but extended disruptions and daily absences that occur after the exam for other reasons are not significantly related to student achievement.  These findings support the interpretation that teacher health issues have important causal impacts on student learning above and beyond the effects of work disruptions.

"State Education Aid, Student Performance, and School District Efficiency in New

York State "

William Duncombe and John Yinger (Syracuse University)

Condition Report  

PowerPoint Presentation

One of the best-known theorems in public finance is that a matching grant has more of a stimulative effect on public outputs than does an equal-cost lump-sum grant. This theorem is an application of the basic microeconomic principle that a given amount of subsidy will lead to larger behavioral changes if it lowers the relevant price than if it does not. In this report, the authors show that this theorem is not correct under a wide range of circumstances.  They also derive more general results that can be used to identify the type of state program that has the largest impact on local government performance.  An application of these results to educational aid in New York State indicates that matching grants are more stimulative than equal-cost lump-sum grants in all types of districts in the sense that they have a larger impact on student performance on exams. Although open-ended matching grants are often not popular with legislatures, because their cost implications are not known at budget time, this result suggests they deserve a second look by legislatures interested in boosting student performance.  On a cautionary note, the authors find that school district responses to grants limits the effectiveness of matching grants and leads to some circumstances where lump-sum grants might be more effective.  They suggest that further research is needed to better understand the complex effects of grants on school district efficiency, and to help design grant and accountability programs that maximize the impact of grants on student performance.

"New Schools, New Leaders:  A Study of Principal Turnover and Academic Achievement at New High Schools in New York City"

Meryle Weinstein, Robin Jacobowitz, Todd Ely, Kate Landon, and Amy Ellen Schwartz (New

York University)

Condition Report  

PowerPoint Presentation

New York State has had a surge of new school development in recent years due to the opening of a large number of small high schools and charter schools.  As new organizations, these schools may be especially vulnerable to fluctuations in leadership, which may disrupt personal relationships in ways that draw attention away from the creation of infrastructures that allow these schools to focus on student performance.  In this report, the authors use quantitative and qualitative data to examine how principal turnover at new high schools affects school culture and student performance, and how principals manage transitions to minimize the impact on both.  They find that there is considerable principal turnover during the first ten years of a school’s existence.  Their results suggest that the initial change from the founding principal to a successor may have little effect on student performance, but that further changes in principal leadership are more problematic.  Additionally, the authors found that transitions between principals were often complicated, tumultuous, and sometimes hostile.  Moreover, there were few institutionalized systems to help facilitate those transitions.  The findings, however, suggest that there are ways to ease this transition period, including on-going, sustained connection to another principal or “shadowing programs” that allow new principals to watch experienced principals at work.  In addition to such mentoring programs, findings indicate that schools may wish to adopt a model of distributive leadership to minimize the impact of a principal’s succession on the school through the sharing of responsibilities among the faculty and staff prior to the succession.