Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

Double-dose, tests, and long-run achievement

Back in October I wrote about Chicago’s “double-dose” algebra program for 9th grade students with below median math scores. Evidence from Kalena Cortes and Joshua Goodman showed that giving very weak students a second math class each day really helped them get better grades. Now the authors, joined by Takako Nomi, have some very interesting results about longer-run results. In fact, two interesting results on quite separate points.

The “standard” interesting result is, in the authors’ words, “substantial positive impacts of double-dose algebra on credits earned, test scores, high school graduation and college enrollment rates.” Here’s one of the authors’ pictures, which shows: (A) Students with math scores just low enough to qualify for double-dosing were notably more likely to graduate high school than were students with similar scores who just missed eligibility. (B) Poor readers benefited even more from math double-dosing than did students as a whole.

Cortes and Goodman and NomiThe “not so standard” result is

test score impacts of this policy dramatically understate its long-run benefits as measured by educational attainment …. In our sample, … estimates suggest that a 0.2 standard deviation increase in fall grade 11 math scores, the upper end of our estimated treatment effect, is associated with a 2 percentage point increase in college enrollment rates. We observe college enrollment effects roughly four times that size, highlighting the fact that long-run analyses of such interventions may yield very different conclusions than short-run analyses.

What’s going on? Test scores don’t measure everything. Test scores are often the best single measure of progress. “Best” doesn’t mean perfect. There’s a real research dilemma here. The authors demonstrate the importance of looking at non-test outcomes, such as college attendance. But looking at long-run outcomes means waiting for years or even decades for data to become available. Not much help for today’s policy makers.

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4 Responses to Double-dose, tests, and long-run achievement

  1. preserve says:

    Nice and Interesting paper.

    Did anyone else notice the discontinuity for the 8th grade reading score at the 8th grade math threshold?(Figure 1).

    Kudos to the authors for showing the covariate chart.

  2. I wrote about that study (probably earlier results) here: https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/algebra-terrors/

    In short, sticking kids in school twice as long for algebra is a miserable frigging thing. I don’t disagree with your main point, but this study has multiple interpretations, most of which say “it was a horrible waste of time”.

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