Anjali Adukia, University of Chicago

Anjali Adukia is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Her research is focused on understanding factors that influence educational decisions for children, families, and teachers in developing contexts. To examine these issues, Dr. Adukia applies empirical statistical methods using large-scale panel data collected from numerous sources, in addition to drawing from insights collected from interviews and participant observation. She completed her doctoral degree at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and her bachelor of science degree in molecular and integrative physiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her dissertation received awards from the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM), the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP), and the Comparative and International Education Society. She also has masters of education degrees in international education policy and higher education (administration, planning, and social policy). Prior to graduate school, Dr. Adukia worked in non-profit organizations and educational institutions in the United States and India. Her desire to have a deeper understanding of how to reduce inequality guided her toward a career in research as a means of having meaningful influence on practice and policy. She continues to work with non-governmental organizations internationally, such as UNICEF and Manav Sadhna in India.

From Retributive to Restorative: Alternative Approaches to Shaping Behavior

Schools traditionally employed punitive, exclusionary methods of discipline, which may temporarily remove undesirable behavior but could result in adverse consequences for students in the long-run. More recently, schools have adopted positive, inclusionary methods of behavior modification, which, in theory, consider present and future concerns by holding students accountable while also repairing harm and rehabilitating relationships. In addition to these reactive disciplinary approaches, some schools have incorporated preventative measures by developing students’ socioemotional skills. In this project, Dr. Adukia will examine the introduction of interventions related to the adoption of restorative justice practices and programs focused on socioemotional-skill development to understand whether these shifts resulted in changes in disciplinary infractions, learning, attendance, or attainment. Findings will help inform school officials about the relative costs and benefits of shifting from a punitive system to a more positive approach to behavior change. This study will also help understand whether reactive approaches to discipline are sufficient to change behavior, or whether both proactive and reactive approaches may be necessary.

Emily Penner, University of California, Irvine

My research focuses on educational inequality and K-12 education policy, and considers the ways that districts, schools, and teachers can contribute to or ameliorate educational inequality. I am currently involved in projects examining teacher recruitment and retention in constrained labor and housing markets, how school sorting processes affect student opportunities to learn, and how educator-initiated curricula that center the cultural and historical experiences of traditionally marginalized students impact student outcomes.

Before & After School: Using Administrative Records to Support Teacher Recruitment & Retention

Teacher turnover costs districts across the country $2.2 billion annually, costs which are disproportionately borne by districts serving low-income students. Moreover, turnover negatively affects school climate and harms student achievement. Using novel school-district human resource data linked with IRS records, I provide policy-relevant insights into how districts can address turnover. These data include teachers from a large urban district and an entire state in the Western United States, allowing for an investigation of the dynamics of turnover in both high cost-of-living urban areas and rural school districts over the past fifteen years. I first examine the economic and residential transitions of former teachers. This will help districts understand whether teachers leave for better economic opportunities, particularly in high-cost, urban and remote, rural areas. To better understand teacher mobility, I also consider the role that residential relocation, housing costs, and partner/spouse job changes play in these transitions. I also use machine learning techniques to code unique applicant essay data to examine whether applicants who express particular attitudes are more likely to remain teachers for longer. This study will help school districts across the country better target their limited resources at more effective recruitment and retention strategies.

Di Xu, University of California, Irvine

Di Xu is an assistant professor of educational policy and social context at the University of California, Irvine. She is also a research fellow with the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Her research uses experimental and quasi-experimental designs to examine the impacts of postsecondary educational programs and policies aimed at improving college students’ educational outcomes, with a particular focus on students from low-income and underrepresented groups. Her work has been published in the American Educational Research Journal, Community College Review, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Researcher, Economics of Education Review, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Human Resources, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, and the invitation-only journal New Directions for Community Colleges, among others; the findings form her studies have also been widely cited in various news outlets including the New York Times, The Atlantic, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and other outlets. Di has a Ph.D. in economics and education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

How Two-and Four-Year College Instructors with Different Contract Types Affect Students’ Academic and Labor Market Outcomes

Based on a novel dataset that links college administrative information with earnings records from a state college system for almost 80,000 students enrolled at either two-year or four-year colleges, this project will relate the proportion of course credits taken with different types of instructors — non-tenure track adjuncts hired through temporary appointments, non-tenure track instructors hired with long-term contract, and tenure-track/tenured faculty — during a student’s initial semester in college to her academic and labor market outcomes. To minimize bias from student sorting by instructors, I will use a course-set fixed effect model that compares between students who take exactly the same set of courses during their first semester of college enrollment; I will further augment the model by combining it with an instrumental variable approach which exploits term-by-term fluctuations in faculty composition in each department, therefore controlling for both between- and within- course sorting. Finally, based on the rich information on instructors’ demographic characteristics and multi-year employment records in this state, I will explore the extent to which instructor effectiveness can be explained by observable instructor demographic characteristics and employment features. This study will provide the first quasi-experimental evidence regarding the impact of different types of college instructors on student labor market outcomes, as well as a comprehensive exploration of possible mechanisms that may explain such impacts.

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