The Effects of Special Education Policy on Short and Long-run Student Achievement
Katelyn Heath

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Cornell University

Primary Discipline

Special education is a rapidly growing, increasingly expensive component of public education, and yet little is known about the causal impact of special education enrollment on student achievement. In 2004, the Texas Education Agency introduced the Performance Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS). This policy included an indicator that monitored the percent of students in special education. Before the policy, in 2003-2004, the statewide average percent of students in special education was 12 percent. As of 2014-2015, the statewide average had fallen to about 8.5 percent. To examine the effects of the PBMAS policy, I utilize restricted-access data from the Texas Schools Project housed at the University of Texas at Dallas. This data set contains de-identified administrative records for all public school students from the Texas Education Agency linked to public post-secondary school enrollment records from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, as well as to labor market earnings from the Texas Workforce Commission. I implement a dose response difference-in-differences estimation strategy, which uses the changes in special education brought about by the PBMAS to estimate the effect of special education status on student performance on state standardized exams, high school graduation rates, post-secondary attainment and quality at public universities in Texas, and earnings in the Texas labor market.
About Katelyn Heath
Katelyn Heath is a Ph.D. candidate in Economics in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. Her primary research interest is in the economics of education with a particular emphasis on students with disabilities. Katelyn’s dissertation focuses on the causal effects of special education programs on short- and long-run student outcomes, including performance on state standardized exams, post-secondary schooling, and labor market earnings. Her work applies econometric methods to a large, linked administrative data set to quantify the short- and long-run impacts of special education for students with disabilities on these future outcomes. Before beginning her graduate studies, Katelyn graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Economics from Saint Michael’s College.

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