Gladwell was right, and other research

Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional series highlighting recent research in education. Education News Colorado is asking experts – researchers in the field – to help sort out what’s worth noting among the many reports, studies and papers surfacing in K-12 and higher education.

This list was compiled by Kristin Klopfenstein, executive director of the Education Innovation Institute at the University of Northern Colorado:

“There were different reasons for including each paper, including that the topic has been in the news lately, the research challenges what we thought we knew or the project was just fun. This list is not intended to be exhaustive — it is from a narrow list of sources written exclusively by economists. Neither EII nor UNC endorses the views expressed in these papers, but they are worth a look if they touch on topics of interest to you.”

Teachers, value-added and student earnings
Chetty, R., Friedman and Rockoff, J. December 2011. The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood. National Bureau of Economic Research, or NBER, working paper 17699. “This paper has gotten a ton of press in the past few weeks. It is an interesting paper linking teacher quality, as measured exclusively by value-added measures, to students’ earnings later in life. While it is interesting that this connection exists, the result doesn’t do anything to inform us about why and how teachers who have greater value-added turn out students who earn slightly more as adults.”

Incentives only work if people know what to do
Fryer, R. January 2012. Aligning Student, Parent, and Teacher Incentives: Evidence from Houston Public Schools. NBER working paper 17752. “Roland Fryer challenges the conventional wisdom about how and when monetary incentives matter. The gist of his work, including this paper, is that incentives (like paying kids, teachers, and/or parents) for higher student achievement only work if people know how to improve student achievement. He finds substantial evidence that, in many cases, motivation isn’t the problem—knowing what to do and how to do it is the problem.”

When schools invest more, so do parents
Belber, A. and Isen, A. December 2011. Children’s Schooling and Parents’ Investment in Children: Evidence from the Head Start Impact Study. NBER working paper 17704. “This study finds that when schools are investing more in their kids, parents up their investment as well. Interesting finding that could — if it gets much traction — add a twist to the school finance debate.”

For-profit schools in the postsecondary sector
Deming, D., Goldin, C. and Katz, L. December 2011. The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators? NBER working paper 17710 “For-profit schools are in the news a lot these days, and this is a well-done paper that yields the typical findings on for-profits in the postsecondary sector — these schools serve more diverse student populations but many end up unemployed and with crushing debt.”

Gladwell was right, or graduating in a recession
Oreopoulos, P., von Wachter, T. and Heisz, A. 2012. “The Short- and Long-Term Career Effects of Graduating in a Recession.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 4(1): 1–29. “This is a really sobering article about how recent cohorts of college graduates are screwed for the long term. It fits in nicely with Malcolm Gladwell’s contention in Outliers that billionaires are not just smart but also lucky in terms of the timing of their birth.”

What a professor’s politics may say about grading practices
Bar, T. and Zussman, A. 2012. “Partisan Grading.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 4(1): 30–48. “This article shows that profs who identify as Democrat have more egalitarian grade distributions than profs who self-identify as Republican. We probably don’t want to go there, but fun reading nonetheless!”

Keeping up with the latest research

How do you track the newest findings in education research?

How can you tell when a study is done well – or serving as a front for a predictable point of view?

Education News Colorado hopes this new occasional feature, Research in Review, will help.

We’re asking education researchers in Colorado to help us sort through all the reports, studies and papers making news – or circulating through our in-boxes – and figure out what’s worth an investment in time.

If you’d like to participate, or you have a suggestion for a researcher we should ask, let us know at

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.