Educational policy and causal inference : empirical evidence from Brazil
- In the 3 papers that make up this dissertation, I conduct causal studies to investigate how educational policy can be shaped to improve teacher effectiveness and family engagement in Brazil, and also how parents respond to school inputs in their efforts to support their children's development. In the first study, I explore the mechanisms behind the effects of communicating with parents. Informing parents about children's attendance and grades has been shown to significantly raise educational achievement. However, there is no evidence for why communication with parents works: is it mainly because information lowers monitoring costs, or is it mainly because it increases the salience of monitoring benefits? The distinction matters -- if salience is the key driver behind those effects, nudging could potentially produce even larger impacts, and at much lower cost. To decompose the effects of communication into the two mechanisms, we run a field experiment with 19,300 ninth-graders in São Paulo, Brazil. Math teachers fill-in a platform with information about their students' behavior, and we randomly assign parents to different messages over SMS: some parents receive information provided by teachers, some just receive an awareness message emphasizing the importance of paying attention to that dimension of children's behavior, and others receive no message at all. I found that communicating with parents via simple and low-cost SMS text messages has large impacts on attendance, test scores, and promotion rates, regard- less of whether the SMS is generic or individualized. Most importantly, I found that reminding parents about the importance of paying attention to a given behavior is even more effective than sending parents real-time information. Consistent with the behavioral mechanism, salience effects are larger for least attentive parents; moreover, higher-frequency communication and alternating delivery times significantly increase effect sizes. The optimal combination of features for nudging parents improves students' test scores by 0.33 standard deviation, almost 4-fold the effect of information alone. In the second study, I show that a low-cost program focused on improving teaching skills via collaborative exchange of practices was successful in increasing teachers' time on instruction, student engagement, and learning gains. I conducted an evaluation of a program in Brazil that provided secondary schools with classroom observation feedback and access to expert coaching. The design of the program was inspired by research evidence that shows large variations in teacher quality within schools. The experiment was conducted in partnership with 350 public schools in the State of Ceará, one of the largest and poorest states in Brazil. Coaching content was based on Teach Like A Champion, by Douglas Lemov, which imparts practical strategies to increase teachers' effectiveness by maximizing time on instruction and student engagement. While deep weaknesses in teachers' content mastery may be not be amenable to short-term improvement through in-service training, the experiment demonstrates that teachers' classroom practices are malleable, and that improved classroom practice can positively impact student learning. Program schools performed 0.05-0.09 SD higher in 10th grade math and Portuguese on a state test and 0.04-0.06 SD higher on a national high school leaving test (12th grade). High quality coaching delivered to the coordinators via Skype kept costs at $2.40 per student, making the program a cost- effective and promising strategy for school-based efforts to raise teachers' classroom effectiveness. In the third study I investigate how parent respond to the school environment. Despite the importance of parents investments on child outcomes, little work in economics explores whether schools inputs might have an indirect effect on student performance through their effect on family inputs. I investigate whether parents are substitutes or complements to the school environment by assessing how parents respond to teacher and peer quality. I identify these effects exploring a unique micro-panel dataset of Brazilian students to estimate student fixed-effect and student fixed-effect-instrumental-variable models. My findings suggest that while high quality resources can crowd-out parents private investments (participation at home), public investments (participation at school) may be multi-dimensional. Taken together, these three papers make important contributions to existing literature on teacher quality and family engagement. The findings are relevant to inform education policies aimed at improving education quality not only in Brazil, but also worldwide.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Menezes Cunha, Nina
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education.
|Hoxby, Caroline Minter
|de Abreu Madeira, Ricardo
|Hoxby, Caroline Minter
|de Abreu Madeira, Ricardo
|Statement of responsibility
|Nina Menezes Cunha.
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2018.
- © 2018 by Nina Menezes Cunha
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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