Education Policy Seminar Series

The Education Policy Seminar Series are FREE and open to the public. No registration is required.
Parking is available at the Central Grounds Parking Garage.

The Education Policy Seminar Series is sponsored by the Bankard Foundation and EdPolicyWorks. For recommended readings or other questions about the series, please contact


Spring 2020

Eric TaylorUsing Survey Scores to Estimate Social-emotional Growth: Implications for Psychology, Education, and Policy​

Jim Soland, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia
Monday January 27, 2020, 12:00-1:30 PM  
Holloway Hall (Rm 116), Bavaro Hall
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Bio: Jim Soland is an Assistant Professor of Quantitative Methodology at the University of Virginia and an Associated Research Fellow at NWEA, an assessment nonprofit.  His research is situated at the intersection of measurement and policy.  Particular areas of emphasis include measuring social emotional learning, quantifying and correcting for test disengagement, and growth modeling more generally.  His work has been featured by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and the Brookings Institute.  Prior to joining UVA and NWEA, Jim completed a doctorate in Educational Psychology at Stanford University with a concentration in measurement and policy.  Jim has also served as a classroom teacher, a policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, and Senior Fiscal Analyst at the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), a nonpartisan organization that provides policy analysis to support the California Legislature.

Abstract: A huge portion of what we know about how humans develop, learn, behave, and interact is based on survey data.  In education, the vast majority of our knowledge on students’ social-emotional development is based on survey scores because related mindsets and competencies are not observed and difficult to quantify. For example, how children develop skills to regulate their behaviors and how adolescents develop confidence in their academic abilities have both been studied primarily using surveys.  Evidence suggests healthy development in such social-emotional competencies is integral to long-term educational attainment outcomes like finishing high school and attending college, as well as later life outcomes like earnings and happiness in adulthood (Dweck, Walton, & Cohen, 2011).  Yet, while we know that measurement bias common to surveys can affect scores at a given timepoint (especially self-report bias), little is known about how these biases affect growth estimates.  This series of studies will examine how much measurement bias affects our understanding of students’ social-emotional growth, including in a quasi-experimental context.  Implications for education, policy, economics, and psychology research will be discussed.

Three peopleRelationship Between Income Inequality and Achievement Since 1990​

Tom Kane, Professor, Harvard
Thursday February 20, 2020, 12:00-1:30 PM 
Holloway Hall (Rm 116), Bavaro Hall
Cosponsored with the Department of Economics
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Bio: Tom Kane is an economist and Walter H. Gale Professor of Education at Harvard. He directed the Measures of Effective Teaching project for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-- the largest study of classroom practice ever undertaken.  He has studied the design of school accountability systems, charter schools, teacher effectiveness, financial aid for college, race-conscious college admissions and the earnings impacts of community colleges.  Along with colleagues from Harvard and Dartmouth, Kane will be working with a set of districts from rural New York and Ohio on strategies for lowering student absenteeism and increasing college enrollment.  From 1995 to 1996, Kane served with President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers.  Kane has also been a faculty member at Harvard’s Kennedy School and at UCLA and has held fellowships at the Brookings Institution and the Hoover Institution.

Abstract: Trends in income-based achievement gaps are central to current concerns over intergenerational mobility.   Yet there is no consistent measure of academic achievement linked to student-level family income over time and no national data collection effort to measure it directly.  Researchers have had to find other ways to infer changes in income-based achievement gaps over time.   For example, Reardon (2011) combined data from a series of longitudinal studies—using different assessments and different measures of student-reported family income—to conclude that there’s been a 40 percent widening in the gap in achievement for those at the top and bottom of the income distribution for 4th and 8th grade students since the late 1980’s.

We take a different approach, combining the NAEP data (with its consistent scale over time) with Census measures of family income at the block group and census tract level.    We use school-level aggregates—on the mean as well as the variance in income and achievement—to reconstruct the student-level relationship between income and achievement.   We do not find evidence of a widening of gaps in achievement in 4th or 8th grade, math or reading since 1990.   On the contrary, we infer that there has been a substantial narrowing of income-based achievement gaps in 4th grade math and English and stable gaps in 8th grade—as well as a sizeable increase in mean achievement at all income levels in math.

John HolbeinNational Service Substantially Increases Dismal Rates of Youth Civic Participation: Evidence from Teach for America

John Holbein, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia
Monday March 2, 2020, 12:00-1:30 PM  
Holloway Hall (Rm 116), Bavaro Hall
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Bio: John B. Holbein is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia. He also has a courtesy appointment in the Curry School of Education and Human Development. He studies political participation, political inequality, democratic accountability, political representation, and education policy. His work has been published in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, the Economics of Education Review, and Nature Human Behavior (to name a few). His research has been supported by two large National Science Foundation grants. His book--Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action--is forthcoming at Cambridge University Press. His work has been covered by outlets such as the Washington Post, Vox, New York Magazine, the Boston Globe, NPR, Bloomberg, Politico, Fast Company, Salon, Business Insider, the 74, VoxEu, and FiveThirtyEight.

Abstract: The United States has one of the, if not the, lowest rates of youth political participation in the world. Low, and by some accounts declining, rates of citizen engagement threaten to undercut the social capital that holds communities together and undermine the basic pillars of democracy. However, little is known about how to address dismal rates of youth civic participation. In this paper, we examine the causal effect of a recently proposed large-scale solution: national service. Leveraging a large scale sample of young people matched to nationwide voter files and a unique natural experiment, we explore the causal effect of admittance and participation in Teach For America---a prominent national service program that integrates college graduates into low-income schools for two years. We find that Teach For America has a large and a long-lasting effect on youth political participation---substantially increasing the voting and party joining of participants. Our results show that national service programs have a great potential to help ameliorate narrow the stubborn gap between young and older citizens in the United States.


Sara MeadEarly Care and Education in the United States: Challenges, Opportunities, and Questions 

Sara Mead, Policy and Evaluation Partner, Bellwether
Monday March 16, 2020, 12:00 - 1:30 PM
Holloway Hall (Bavaro Hall 116)
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Bio: As a partner with Bellwether Education Partners, Sara Mead directs the organization’s early childhood work and leads teams analyzing policies and advising clients on a variety of early childhood, elementary, and secondary education issues. Her areas of expertise include preschool, Head Start, charter schools, and teacher quality across the P-12 continuum. Since joining Bellwether in 2010, Sara has provided strategic advising support to foundations, advocacy organizations, and early childhood operators. Her work has been featured in media outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, and USA Today, and U.S. News & World Report. Before joining Bellwether, Sara directed the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative. She has also worked for Education Sector, the Progressive Policy Institute, and the U.S. Department of Education. From 2009-2017, Sara served on the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, which authorizes charter schools in Washington, D.C. Sara currently serves on the board of the National Association for Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). She holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Vanderbilt University. As the daughter, granddaughter, and sister of public school educators, Sara grew up with a deep appreciation for the importance of public education and the opportunities it provided to her and her family. Her work at Bellwether seeks to extend these same opportunities to our nation’s neediest youngsters — particularly in the early years that are such a crucial time in children's cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development.

Abstract: Research demonstrates how the earliest years of children's lives lay the foundation for future learning and thriving. But early childhood learning and development has historically been an afterthought in U.S. education and public policies. U.S. public education systems don't start until age 5, and while most young children are in some form of regular childcare, these services are delivered through a fragmented patchwork of public, private, and inform arrangements. Despite growing recognition of the research on early childhood development, Americans remain conflicted about the role of formal care and education for young children as well as the responsibilities of parents, government, and civil society to support young children's learning and development. Over the past quarter century, states and the federal government have made increasing investments in expanding access to pre-k and early childhood programs, but large gaps in quality and access remain. This seminar will feature a candid discussion about why early care and education matter for children and society; the current state of early care and education in the United States; the factors driving increased focus on and demand for high-quality early care and education; barriers to expanding access to quality early learning; and opportunities for research, practice, and policy to work together to advance learning and support for young children and their families.


Sara MeadWork Boots to Combat Boots: Mass Layoffs and Military Enlistment 

Francis Murphy, Branch Chief, US Army Headquarters
Monday March 23, 2020, 12:00 - 1:30 PM
Holloway Hall (Bavaro Hall 116)
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Bio: Fran Murphy currently serves as a Branch Chief in Strength Analysis & Forecasting at Headquarters, US Army.  He is a 2002 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and earned his PhD in Education Policy Studies and MA in Economics at the University of Virginia.  He also completed an MBA at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  Fran’s research investigates challenges and opportunities in manning the All-Volunteer Force as well as human capital decision-making and outcomes for military service members and their families.  His work has published at the Journal of Labor Economics and Journal of Human Capital.  Fran previously served as a rotating military faculty member (Economics) at West Point and with the First Infantry Division on multiple combat deployments to the Middle East.

Abstract: Weak local labor market conditions may significantly impact the trajectories of young people expecting to find employment after high school by increasing educational investments, inducing migration to more prosperous labor markets or reducing labor force attachment.  A notable channel of potential adjustment is military enlistment, which is akin to an employer offering guaranteed employment and training outside the local labor market.  Using data on Army enlistments, we demonstrate a significant local response in enlistment to mass layoffs, with a 1 percentage point increase in mass layoffs in the commuting zone (CZ) increasing enlistment into the Army by 2.83%.  This impact reflects an increase in local supply of personnel to the military, rather than an endogenous recruitment response on the part of military recruiters.  We also present suggestive evidence that the military enlistment option is a structural stabilizer for the local economy rather than a means for extracting talent.  Our work demonstrates the significance of military employment as an important arm of adjustment to local labor market shocks.

Anjali AdukiaChoice and Consequence: Assessing Mismatch at Chicago Exam Schools

Parag Pathak, Professor, MIT
Friday, April 10, 2020 1:00-2:30 PM 
LDCC (Rm 302), Ruffner Hall
Co-sponsored by the Batten School Research Speaker Series
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Bio: Parag A. Pathak is the Jane Berkowitz Carlton and Dennis William Carlton Professor of Microeconomics at MIT, found­ing co-director of the NBER Working Group on Market Design, and founder of MIT's School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative (SEII), a laboratory focused on education, human capital, and the income distribution.  In 2005, based on work in his PhD thesis, Boston's school committee adopted a new mechanism for student placement, citing the desire to make it easier for participants to navigate and to level the playing field for the city's families.  He has also helped to design the Chicago, Denver, Newark, New Orleans, New York, and Washington DC school choice systems. His work on mar­ket design and edu­ca­tion was rec­og­nized with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship.  In 2012, he was selected to give the Shapley Lecture at GAMES2012 as a dis­tin­guished game the­o­rist under age 40.   In 2013, he was appointed as Mayor Thomas Menino's chief technical advisor for Boston's student assignment plan.  Under his direction, SEII provided a formal analysis of different alternatives, which eventually led to the most significant change in Boston's school choice system since the end of court-ordered busing.  The IMF listed him as one of 25 top economists under age 45 in 2014.  He was awarded the 2016 Social Choice and Welfare as the top young scholar in social choice and welfare economics together with Fuhito Kojima and elected a Fellow of the Econometric Society.  In addi­tion to gen­er­at­ing aca­d­e­mic pub­li­ca­tions that study, develop, and test dif­fer­ent student assign­ment sys­tems, Pathak's research work has directly affected the lives of over one mil­lion pub­lic school students. In 2018, the American Economic Association awarded him the John Bates Clark Medal as the best American economist under age 40.

Abstract: The educational mismatch hypothesis asserts that students are hurt by affirmative action policies that place them in selective schools for which they wouldn't otherwise qualify. We evaluate mismatch in Chicago's selective public exam schools, which admit students using neighborhoodbased diversity criteria as well as test scores. Regression discontinuity estimates for applicants favored by affirmative action indeed show no gains in reading and negative effects of exam school attendance on math scores. But these results are similar for more- and less-selective schools and for applicants unlikely to benefit from affirmative-action, a pattern inconsistent with mismatch. We show that Chicago exam school effects are explained by the schools attended by applicants who are not offered an exam school seat. Specifically, mismatch arises because exam school admission diverts many applicants from high-performing Noble Network charter schools, where they would have done well. Consistent with these findings, exam schools reduce Math scores for applicants applying from charter schools in another large urban district. Exam school applicants' previous achievement, race, and other characteristics that are sometimes said to mediate student-school matching play no role in this story.


Anjali AdukiaDo School Structures Ameliorate or Exacerbate Inequality? ​

Anjali Adukia, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago
Thursday, April 23, 2020 12:00-1:30 PM 
Holloway Hall (Rm 116), Bavaro Hall
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Bio: Anjali Adukia is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the College. In her work, she is interested in understanding how to reduce inequalities such that children from historically disadvantaged backgrounds have equal opportunities to fully develop their potential.  Her research is focused on understanding factors that motivate and shape behavior, preferences, attitudes, and educational decision-making, with a particular focus on early-life influences.  She examines how the provision of basic needs—such as safety, health, justice, and representation—can increase school participation and improve child outcomes in developing contexts. Adukia completed her doctoral degree at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, with an academic focus on the economics of education. Her work has been funded from organizations such as the William T. Grant Foundation, the National Academy of Education, and the Spencer Foundation.  Her dissertation won awards from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP), and the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES). Adukia received recognition for her teaching from the University of Chicago Feminist Forum.  She completed her masters of education degrees in international education policy and higher education (administration, planning, and social policy) from Harvard University and her bachelor of science degree in molecular and integrative physiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She is a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a faculty affiliate of the University of Chicago Education Lab and Crime Lab.  She is on the editorial board of Education Finance and Policy.  She was formerly a board member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network – San Francisco Bay Area. She continues to work with non-governmental organizations internationally, such as UNICEF and Manav Sadhna in Gujarat, India.