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Events > Education Policy Colloquia Series

The PEPG Education Policy Colloquia Series was initiated in the spring of 2004 to foster an interest in education research within the Harvard community by inviting top scholars from across the country to present their recent research findings in an open discussion with colloquia attendees. All events are free and open to the public. To learn about the schedule for future colloquia, subscribe to PEPG News.

SPRING 2014  

Unless otherwise noted, presentations begin at 12:00 noon in room S-050, on the Concourse Level of the Harvard University CGIS South Building, located at 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA (map). The series is free to all in the Harvard community; others please RSVP to pepg@fas.harvard.edu. A light lunch is provided.

April 16, 2014
The Impact of Teacher Skills on Student Performance across Countries
Marc Piopiunik — PEPG Post-Doctoral Fellow and ifo Institut - Leibniz-Institut fuer Wirtschaftsforschung an der Universitaet Muenchen e.V.
Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies - K-450

May 13, 2014
Not Just the Problem of Other People's Children
Featuring a presentation by co-author Paul E. Peterson, Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Harvard University; Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; Editor-in-Chief, Education Next
Followed by a discussion with Mitchell D. Chester: Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Massachusetts                                   
Moderated by Gerard Robinson, Vice President of Partnerships, UniversityNow 
Event location: Center for Government and International Studies – South, Room 050

Watch a Livestream of this event here.


FALL 2013  

Unless otherwise noted, presentations begin at 12:00 noon in room S-050, on the Concourse Level of the Harvard University CGIS South Building, located at 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA (map). The series is free to all in the Harvard community; others please RSVP to pepg@fas.harvard.edu. A light lunch is provided.

Oct. 15, 2013
Planning for the Future in Boston Public Schools
John McDonough — Interim Superintendent, Boston Public Schools
Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies - S-050

Oct. 29, 2013
How Common Core State Standards could Change the School Choice Debate: Experimental Results from the 2013 Education Next Surve
Paul E. Peterson — Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government; Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance; Editor-in-Chief, Education Next
Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies - S-050

Nov. 12, 2013
School Accountability, Postsecondary Attainment and Earnings
Dave Deming — Harvard Graduate School of Education
Read the related NBER working paper

Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies - S-050

Dec. 3, 2013
Supplying Disadvantaged Schools with Effective Teachers:
Experimental Evidence on Secondary Math Teachers from Teach For America

Hanley S. Chiang — Senior Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research
Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies - S-020

Spring 2013  

Unless otherwise noted, presentations begin at 12:00 noon in room S 250- on the Concourse Level of the Harvard University CGIS South Building, located at 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA (map). The series is free to all in the Harvard community; others please RSVP to pepg@fas.harvard.edu. A light lunch is provided.

March 6, 2013
Do we need vouchers in school accountability systems? Evidence from a court induced change in Florida’s A+ accountability plan
Benedikt Siegler-- Ifo Institute
**Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies - North 262**

April 10, 2013
Public Education in Massachusetts: A Vision for the Future
Matthew H. Malone-- Massachusetts Secretary of Education
**Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies - South 153**

April 25, 2013
A Conversation with David Vitale
David Vitale -- Board Chair, Chicago Public Schools
**Event location:  Bell Hall, Belfer - HKS**

Fall 2012  

Unless otherwise noted, presentations begin at 12:00 noon in room S 250- on the Concourse Level of the Harvard University CGIS South Building, located at 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA (map). The series is free to all in the Harvard community; others please RSVP to pepg@fas.harvard.edu. A light lunch is provided.

September 24, 2012
The Effects of School Vouchers on College Enrollment: Experimental Evidence from New York City 
Matt Chingos -- Brown Center on Education, The Brookings Institution
**Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies- South 250**

October 15, 2012
The Aftermath of Accelerating Algebra: Shedding Light on America's Math Problem
Jacob Vigdor -- Duke University

**Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies- South 250**

October 31, 2012
Student Growth Percentile Measures
Cory Koedel -- University of Missouri
**Event location has moved:  Center for Government and International Studies- South 153**

November 19, 2012
The 2012 Education Next-PEPG Poll on Education
William Howell -- Harris School and University of Chicago
**Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies- South 250**

December 5, 2012
Education Performance and Education Reform in England: What are the lessons of the radical reforms in education policy?
Chris Husbands -- Director of the Institute of Education, University of London
**Event time: 2:00PM - 3:30PM 
**Event location:  L324/Fainsod, Litauer - HKS**

Spring 2012  

Unless otherwise noted, presentations begin at 12:00 noon in room S-050 on the Concourse Level of the Harvard University CGIS South Building, located at 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA (map). The series is free to all in the Harvard community; others please RSVP to pepg@fas.harvard.edu. A light lunch is provided.

February 29, 2012
The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers 
Robert S. Eitel -- Founding Member, Talbert & Eitel,  PLLC
**Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies- South 050**

March 7, 2012
Principal Effectiveness: Aligning Evaluation, Accountability, and Support
John Kim -- William Henry Bloomberg Fellow – Harvard Business School
**Event location:  Graduate School of Education - Longfellow Hall, Room 308**

April 4, 2012
Flaking Out: Snowfall, Disruptions of Instructional Time and Student Achievement
Joshua Goodman -- Assistant Professor of Public Policy -  Harvard Kennedy School
**Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies- Knafel 262**

April 11, 2012
President Nixon and the Segregated Southern School
Gerard Alexander -- Associate Professor, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, University of Virginia
**Event location:  Center for Government and International Studies- South 050**

Fall 2011  

September 8, 2011
The Internet and Social Capital
Ludger Woessmann
Department of Economics, University of Munich and Head of Department Human Capital and Innovation, Ifo Institute for Economic Research

September 22, 2011
The 2011 Education Next-PEPG Poll: Teachers and the Public
William G. Howell
Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics, The Harris School and Professor, Department of Political Science and the College, University of Chicago

October 20
Globally Challenged: Are US Students Ready to Compete?
Paul E. Peterson
Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Harvard University
***Note: This event will be held in CGIS S-153***

November 9
The Elite Illusion: Achievement Effects at Boston and New York Exam Schools

Parag A. Pathak
Associate Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Spring 2011  

February 9
Examining Student Achievement in Massachusetts' Charter Schools
Sarah Cohodes
Research Manager, Center for Education Policy Research, Harvard Graduate School of Education
This study is now available online.

March 23
What Do We Really Think About School Reform? Uncertainty, Vested Interests, and Partisan Cues
Michael Henderson
Research Fellow, Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University

March 30
The Same Thing Over and Over
Rick Hess
Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute

April 13
The Road Less Traveled: Impacts of Alternative Grade Configurations through Middle and High School
Guido Schwerdt
Post Doctoral Fellow, Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University

Fall 2010  

September 22
Meeting of the Minds? Results from the 2010 Education Next-PEPG Survey of Public Opinion
Martin R. West
Deputy Director of PEPG & Assistant Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

With the national debate over education policy intensifying by the day, the fourth annual EdNext-PEPG Survey offers timely and detailed evidence on Americans’ views on a range of hot-button and how those views are changing over time.  The results show growing support for several strategies put forward in recent years by leaders of both political parties—most notably online education and merit pay.  And with the exceptions of school spending and teacher tenure, the divisions between ordinary Democrats and Republicans on education policy matters are quite minor, suggesting the possibility of assembling bipartisan support for a significant reform agenda.

September 29
What's it All About, Arne?
Grover “Russ” Whitehurst
Director, Brown Center on Education Policy, The Brookings Institution
*Location Change - Room S020 of the CGIS South Building

An Analysis of the Obama Administration's Education Reform Agenda

The slides from Dr. Whitehurst's presentation are available here.

October 13
What’s In a Name? No Child Left Behind and Today’s Teachable Moment
Margaret Spellings
Harvard University IOP Fellow & Former Secretary of Education
*Location Change - Room S020 of the CGIS South Building

A discussion of education reform and opportunities in the context of today’s
political and cultural landscape.

The slides from Secretary Spellings' presentation are available here.

November 3
Doubling Up: Remedial Algebra and Student Outcomes
Josh Goodman
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

In 2003, the Chicago Public Schools required all students with low 8th grade math scores to take two periods of freshman algebra instead of one. We explore the impact of this remedial program on students' grades, test scores, and dropout rates. Preliminary results suggest that the program improved test scores and that the effect persisted over time.

The slides from Professor Goodman's presentation are available here.

December 1
Talented Tenth: Who is Producing High-Achieving Math Students?

Paul E. Peterson
Director of PEPG & Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Harvard University

Professor Peterson will be presenting on a study he co-authored with Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich. The authors analyzed state-by-state the percentage of students performing at advanced levels in math. Most states in the U.S. rank closer to developing countries than to developed countries. Thirteen developed countries have more than twice the percentage of advanced students as does the U.S., including Germany, Canada, the Czech Republic, Japan, Finland and Austria. Read the full report here.

Spring 2010  

March 3
Beyond Test Scores: The Effects of Charter High Schools on Educational Attainment
Brian Gill
Mathematica Policy Research

This presentation will draw from a recent study conducted by Kevin Booker, Tim R. Sass, Brian Gill and Ron Zimmer. The findings of that study are discussed in the following Education Next article:

Kevin Booker, Tim R. Sass, Brian Gill and Ron Zimmer, "The Unknown World of Charter Schools," Education Next, Spring, 2010/ VOL 10, NO2.

March 31
The Impact of a Universal Class-Size Reduction Policy: Evidence from Florida's Statewide Mandate
Matthew Chingos
Research Fellow, Program on Education Policy and Governance

April 7
Interest Group Influence in School Board Politics: Evidence from a Natural Experiment?
Christopher R. Berry
Assistant Professor, The Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago (website)

This presentation is based on a recent study conducted by Christopher R. Berry and Jacob E. Gersen. Click here to download "Election Timing & Interest Group Influence in School Board Politics."

April 21
Citizen Perceptions of Government Service Quality: Evidence from Public Schools
Martin R. West
Deputy Director of PEPG, Assistant Professor of Education Harvard Graduate School of Education

By what criteria do citizens evaluate the quality of government services?  Using data from a new nationally representative survey, West finds that citizens' perceptions of the relative quality of specific schools reflect publicly available information about the level of student achievement in those schools.  The relationship between actual and perceived school quality is two to three times stronger for parents of school-age children, who have the most direct contact with schools and arguably have the strongest incentives to be informed.  However, this relationship does not differ by respondents' race, ethnicity, income, education, or homeowner status.  The percent of students in a school who are poor has a modest effect on citizen perceptions of its quality, but the percent who are black or Hispanic does not.  It is difficult to determine whether respondents' apparent sensitivity to service quality is the result of publicly available information or direct observation. West find suggestive evidence that both explanations are important.


FALL 2009  

September 23
Using Student Achievement Data to Identify Effective Teaching Practices
John Tyler
Associate Professor of Education, Public Policy and Economics, Brown University (website)

Teachers are a key, perhaps the key, input into the education process. Nevertheless, systematic identification of effective teachers has remained an elusive endeavor. Some observers are now calling for a “hybrid” model of teacher evaluation that would combine classroom-based observations with test score-based value-added measures. This paper uses data from Cincinnati to develop such a hybrid model, and in so doing presents evidence on which types of classroom practices are most effective in promoting student achievement.

The working paper related to this presentation may be downloaded here.

October 14
Inside Urban Charter Schools in Massachusetts: Where’s the Beef?
Katherine K. Merseth
Senior Lecturer and Director of Teacher Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education (website)

In this provocative presentation, Katherine K. Merseth, Senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education offers a hopeful yet realistic view inside five high performing urban charter schools in Massachusetts.  Drawing from the book, Inside Urban Charter Schools, the presentation will explore factors determined to contribute to the success of five high-performing urban charter schools serving predominately low-income, minority youth in Massachusetts by using an analytic framework grounded in nonprofit management and effective schools literature. 

Using qualitative data, this presentation demonstrates that these schools excel along the organizational dimensions of structure, systems, human resource strategies, culture and clarity of mission—functions executed with remarkable coherence.  However, this consistency of organizational features is less pronounced within individual classrooms with respect to instructional activities.  Nonetheless, organizational factors appear to trump the variability in instruction, enabling several of these schools to gain 100% proficiency on the challenging Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System with several of these schools scoring at the top of all high schools in the state. 

However, SAT scores for these same students hover below the national and state mean.  This raises several questions including whether these ‘No Excuses’ schools will be able to realize their mission to prepare students to succeed in college and beyond.

This event is being cosponsored by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston

A copy of the presentation may be downloaded here.

November 4
Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning
Paul E. Peterson
Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Governmant and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University (bio)

The story of those who tried to customize learning to meet the needs of each child by centralizing power away from local communities, thereby creating the current crisis in American education--and why that is all about to change.

Please note: This event will held in Room S-020 (The Belfer Case Study Room) on the Concourse Level of the CGIS South Building at 1730 Cambridge Street. As food is not allowed in this room, a light lunch will be served in Room S-030 (The Public Gathering Room) beginning at 11:45 a.m. We expect the presentation to begin at 12:15 p.m.

December 2
Information and Employee Evaluation: Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in Public Schools
Jonah E. Rockoff
Assistant Professor of Economics and Finance, Columbia Graduate School of Business and Faculty Research Fellow at the NBER (website)

A large body of research suggests that improving teacher quality is an important channel for raising student achievement. However, in order to selectively retain highly effective teachers, or provide training to teachers who need it, school administrators must be able to accurately evaluate teacher performance. One potential tool to improve teacher evaluation is the use of information based on student achievement outcomes. To assess the merits of providing such information to school administrators, the New York City Department of Education disseminated reports on the performance of individual teachers to a randomly selected subset of volunteer principals in the school year 2007-2008. We analyze the effects of providing this information on principals' subjective evaluations of teachers, subsequent teacher turnover, and student achievement.

The study is coauthored with Douglas Staiger (Dartmouth), Thomas Kane (Harvard GSE) and Eric Taylor (Harvard GSE).

FALL 2008  

September 24
The 2008 Education Next - PEPG Survey of Public Opinion
Paul E. Peterson
Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Harvard University (bio)

October 1
Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation
Thomas Kane
Professor of Education and Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education (bio)
This event is being cosponsored by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston

Paper for the Event:
Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement:An Experimental Evaluation
by Thomas J. Kane, Harvard Graduate School of Education
and Douglas O. Staiger, Dartmouth College

October 28*
Do Disadvantaged Urban Schools Lose Their Best Teachers?
Eric Hanushek
Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University (homepage)
*Day of the Week Change - 10/28 is a Tuesday

A growing body of research confirms the long-held belief of parents, school administrators, and policy makers that teachers are the key component to a good education and that there is substantial variation in teacher quality. This research differs fundamentally from prior work on teachers in focusing on differences in student learning across classrooms rather than differences in teacher experience, salary, education, or other quantifiable characteristics. Moreover, it also raises questions about studies that draw inferences about implications for teacher quality based entirely on observable characteristics. When looked at in terms of teacher effectiveness, many of the policies commonly discussed are suspect if not wrong. This paper discusses the underlying analytical issues, provides new evidence on variations in teacher effectiveness, and sketches some of the policy implications that follow.

November 12
The Impact of Teacher Subject Knowledge on Student Achievement: Evidence from Within-Teacher Within-Student Variation
Ludger Woessmann
Professor of Economics, University of Munich and CESifo (homepage)

Joint work with Johannes Metzler

While it is well-established that teachers differ greatly in the knowledge they convey to students, little is known about which teacher attributes account for these differences. We exploit a unique Peruvian dataset that provides test scores in two subjects for both students and their teachers to estimate the causal effect of teacher subject knowledge on student achievement using within-teacher within-student variation. By including student and teacher fixed effects, our model circumvents biases from omitted variables and selection. The results indicate that a one standard-deviation increase in teacher test scores increases student test scores by at least 4 percent of a standard deviation.

December 10
Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement
Jacob Vigdor
Associate Professor of Public Policy Studies and Economics, Duke University and Faculty Research Fellow, National Bureau of Economics Research (info)

Paper for the Event:
Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement
by Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd and Jacob L. Vigdor - Duke University

Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between rich and poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to secondary students reduce these disparities? The authors use administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys which document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use. Using within-student variation in home computer access, and across-ZIP code variation in the timing of the introduction of high-speed internet service, the authors also demonstrate that the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.

SPRING 2008  

February 20
The Non-Cognitive Returns to Class Size
Martin R. West
Assistant Professor of Education and Political Science, Brown University (bio)

Recent studies suggest that “noncognitive” skills play a key role in students’ academic and economic success. However, we have little evidence on how key educational inputs affect the development of important noncognitive skills. Using experimental data on elementary school students from Project STAR and nationally representative data on 8th graders from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, we estimate the effects of class size on a range of noncognitive outcomes and consider the implications of our results for debates over the cost-effectiveness of class-size reduction.

March 5
Hiring & Firing, Opening & Closing: How Inflows and Outflows of People and Schools Can Dramatically Shift the Performance Curve in Public Education
Bryan Hassel
Co-Director, Public Impact

Across many domains of public policy, a key imperative is to shift the curve of human performance dramatically in a positive direction. Whether we are trying to boost student learning in schools, reduce street crime, or rebuild a country after a war, a central question is how to elicit better execution from the people or organizations entrusted with carrying out the public’s work. Yet too often, we do not think clearly enough about the current shapes of these curves and what policy and management levers have the best chance of producing positive changes. “Working the Curve” is a new analytical framework designed to help researchers, policymakers, and practitioners make smarter decisions about where to invest limited reform energy and resources to get the best results. In this presentation, Dr. Hassel will explain the framework and use two high-profile education policy debates to illustrate its value: teacher quality and charter schools.
Download a PDF of the presentation

April 2
The School Funding Dilemma: Myths and Realities
Daphne A. Kenyon
Visiting Fellow, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
*Time Change - Begins at 12:30pm

This talk is based on a recent Lincoln Institute report entitled “The Property Tax-School Funding Dilemma,” which includes a comprehensive review of research on both the property tax and school funding, and case studies of seven states—California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas. This talk will focus on school funding myths and the Massachusetts case study.
Download a PDF of the presentation

FALL 2007  

Wednesday, September 26
Heterogeneity in Public and Private Sector Effects on Elementary Student Performance: Results from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey
Elena Llaudet
Research Fellow, Program on Education Policy and Governance
Paul E. Peterson
Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Harvard University (bio)

The paper estimates the relative impact of public and private schooling on a nationwide sample of U.S. elementary school students.

Thursday, October 4
What Americans Think about Their Schools
William G. Howell
The Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago (bio)
*Location Change - Room S250, CGIS South (map)
*Time Change - Begins at 11:30am

Americans both care about their schools and want them to improve, but what are they willing to invest in public education and how confident are they that investing more will improve student learning? How open are they to a host of school reforms ranging from high-stakes student accountability to merit pay for teachers to school vouchers? And tax credits that would give low-income families greater access to private schools? Do they back reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and school accountability? What do Americans think of market-based reforms? What are their thoughts on charter schools?

All this—and more—is answered by a new national survey of U.S. adults conducted under the auspices of Education Next and the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University. We report the opinions of both the public at large and three ethnic subgroups (whites, African Americans, and Hispanics). We also distinguish the views of those who have worked for the public schools from those who have not. The main findings from the Education Next-PEPG survey are based on a nationally representative stratified sample of 2,000 adults (age 18 years and older).

Wednesday, October 17
Innovations in Education
Clayton M. Christensen
Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School (bio)

The root causes for why our schools have struggled to improve, and how to solve these problems.

Wednesday, November 7
The Peculiar Incentives of U.S. Teacher Pension Systems
Michael Podgursky
Professor of Economics, University of Missouri-Columbia (bio)

Public school teachers in the U.S. are nearly universally covered by defined benefit (DB) pension plans and roughly 30 percent are not in the social security system. These retirement benefit systems absorb large and growing shares of K-12 education spending. Yet there has been little analysis of their effect on teacher workforce quality, recruitment, and retention. Defined Benefit pension plans often generate odd time patterns for accrual of pension wealth. One typical pattern exhibits low accrual in early years, accelerating in mid-late years, followed by dramatic decline, or even negative returns in years that are relatively young for retirement. We identify key factors in the defined benefit formulas that drive such patterns and likely consequences for employee behavior.

States also have provisions for re-employment after “retirement,” which have become more important as benefit formulas have increasingly favored early retirement. These provisions allow teachers to receive a pension and salary at the same time, under varying restrictions. They enhance the incentives to retire early (since one does not have to stop working). Equally as important, this phenomenon calls for a careful reconsideration of the standard data on teacher compensation, as the line between current and deferred compensation is blurred.

We examine the efficiency and equity consequences of these systems and lessons that might be drawn for pension reform. This was a joint work with Robert M. Costrell, Professor of Education Reform, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Wednesday, December 5
School Choice Impacts: Initial Results from the Latest Voucher Experiment
Patrick J. Wolf
Professor and 21st Century Chair in School Choice, University of Arkansas (bio)

School choice remains an important part of the national discussion on education reform strategies and their benefits. While a variety of policies encourage parents’ selection of schools for their children vouchers that allow students to attend a private school have received the most attention. The U.S. Congress’ passage of the District of Columbia School Choice Incentive Act of 2003 in January 2004 provided a unique opportunity not only to implement a system of private school choice for low-income students in the District, but also to rigorously assess the effects of the program on students, parents, and the existing school system via experimental methods.

This paper describes the first-year impacts of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program on those who applied for and were given the option to move from a public school to a participating private school of their choice. After about seven months of participation in the program, the members of the treatment group evidenced substantially higher levels of parental satisfaction with their child’s school as well as much higher perceptions of school safety. Although no significant achievement impacts were detected overall, the members of the treatment group who were better prepared academically at baseline – because they were not attending a public school in need of improvement or were performing in the top two-thirds of the applicant test-score distribution – showed signs of early voucher gains in math. The paper concludes by placing these newest voucher findings within the context of previous rigorous analyses of what happens when more low-income inner-city parents are allowed to enroll their children in private schools of choice by way of K-12 scholarships or vouchers.

Spring 2007  

Wednesday, February 21
Should We Care about Cognitive Skills?
The Role of Education Quality in Economic Growth

Ludger Woessman
Visiting Scholar, Program on Education Policy and Governance;
University of Munich and Ifo Institute for Economic Research (homepage)

A standard response to the country's poor performance on international student achievement tests is - "So what? Who cares about these kind of cognitive skills in our modern world? Our schools should care about other things."

Is such a response warranted? In his talk, professor Woessmann will present joint work with Eric Hanushek which empirically evaluates the role of education in promoting economic well-being, with a particular focus on the role of educational quality. He will review the evidence on the relationship between the cognitive skills of the population on the one hand and individual earnings, the distribution of income, and economic growth on the other hand.

Based on newly expanded data on an extensive set of international comparisons of cognitive skills, the evidence will also address more detailed questions. For example, is it a few "rocket scientists" at the very top of the distribution who are needed to spur economic growth, or is it "education for all" that is needed to lay a broad base at the lower parts of the educational distribution? Does any effect of education quality on economic growth depend on other complementary growth-enhancing policies and institutions? Does a look at school enrollment and attainment provide a proper picture of the true skill deficits of developing countries?

Download the paper for this event.

Thursday, April 26
Public Opinion on Education Reform: Experimental Findings
William Howell, University of Chicago - Harris School
* Location Change: Room N354, CGIS North ( map)

With the No Child Left Behind Act up for renewal this year, current public opinion on K-12 education could prove to be vitally important in shaping the future of federal education policy. In order to take America's pulse on education, PEPG, with the help of a national polling firm and some of the foremost scholars on survey design, recently conducted a national survey of American opinion on education. The survey included an experimental component: the wording of several questions was altered so that researchers could observe how sensitive certain opinions are to slight alterations in language.

At this talk, Professor Howell will discuss the results of the survey, including the findings that were garnered from the experimental portion of the questionnaire. He will also report on public attitudes toward a range of education reforms, such as vouchers and accountability.

fall 2006  

Wednesday, October 11
Removing the Barriers to Private Sector Innovation in Public Education
Steven Wilson, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (bio)

At this colloquium, Wilson will chronicle and analyze the first decade of private management of public schools as detailed in his recent book, Learning on the Job (Harvard, 2006). Founder and former CEO of an urban charter school management company, Wilson will share his and other leaders' insights on the prospects of private education management organizations (EMOs). Distilling common misapprehensions and missteps taken by the first generation EMOs, Wilson will propose a provocative thesis about how our schools could benefit from the next generation of private management efforts.

Wednesday, November 1
From Dollars to Darwin:
How Public Opinion and Institutions Shape Education Policies
Eric Plutzer, Penn State University(bio)

Most educational policies are enacted by state governments or by school boards. Federalism and localism should contribute to educational policies that not only vary, but vary systematically so that policies reflect the preferences of local citizens. However, the correspondence between citizen opinions and policy policy responsiveness is not a given. Rather, the efforts of mobilized interest groups, the structure of intergovernmental relations, the type of issue, and the design of political institutions can all enhance or retard (often deliberately) policy responsiveness. In this talk, Plutzer will examine responsiveness for one financial issue (per pupil spending / tax effort) and one social issue (the teaching of evolution in public schools). Findings will be drawn from Ten Thousand Democracies* (Georgetown, 2005) and ongoing, unpublished research (both with Michael Berkman). In so doing, he will provide a framework for understanding responsiveness to the public more generally.

* Linked page includes a free PDF of the book's first chapter.

Wednesday, December 6
Getting Farther Ahead by Staying Behind?
A Second-Year Evaluation of Florida's Policy to End Social Promotion
Jay P. Greene, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas (bio)

Social promotion has long been the normal practice in American schools. Critics of this practice, whereby students are promoted to the next grade regardless of academic preparation, have suggested that students would benefit academically if they were made to repeat a grade. Supporters of social promotion claim that retaining students (i.e, holding them back) disrupts them socially, producing greater academic harm than promotion would.

At this colloquium, Greene will discuss the effects of Florida’s test-based promotion policy on student achievement two years after initial retention. Building upon his and Marcus Winter's prior research of the policy, he will examine whether the initial benefits of retention observed in the previous study continue in the second year after students are retained. Furthermore, he will examine whether discrepancies between his evaluation and the evaluation of a test-based promotion policy in Chicago are caused by differences in how researchers examined the issue, or by differences in the nature of the programs.

spring 2006  

Wednesday, February 15
Can Teacher Quality Be Effectively Assessed?
National Board Certification as a Signal of Effective Teaching
Dan Goldhaber, University of Washington and the Urban Institute (bio)
Download a PDF of the full report

With the No Child Left Behind Act requirement for 'a qualified teacher in every classroom,' a great deal of attention is being paid to the teacher certification programs used by states to determine whether or not a teacher will be deemed qualified. At this seminar, professor Goldhaber will describe the results of his study assessing the relationship between the certification of teachers by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and elementary-level student achievement. This will include examinations of whether NBPTS assesses the most effective applicants, whether certification by NBPTS serves as a signal of teacher quality, and whether completing the NBPTS assessment process serves as catalyst for increasing teacher effectiveness.

Wednesday, March 8
The "Third Way" of Education Reform:
Principal and Parental Assessments of Teacher Quality
Brian Jacob (bio)
Kennedy School of Government
Download "The 'Third Way' of Education Reform"
Download "When Principals Rate Teachers," Education Next (Spring 2006)

Education reformers agree on the need for high-quality teaching, but they disagree sharply on how to identify good and bad teachers. The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act ushered in a new era of standardized test-based accountability, with state statutes now rewarding and sanctioning school staff based on student performance and ten states directly linking teacher pay to test scores.
Many parents and educators, however, continue to view high-stakes testing as overly focused
on narrow educational goals.

Using a variety of data sources not normally available to researchers, Professor Jacob will examine the accuracy of principal assessments and parental satisfaction in identifying effective teachers. He will then discuss the viability of these measurements as alternative means for increasing the accountability of teachers, while also respecting a wider range of educational goals and the particular circumstances of each classroom and school.

Thursday, April 27
What Does Certification Tell Us About Teacher Effectiveness?
Evidence from New York City
Tom Kane, Harvard Graduate School of Education (bio)
Download a PDF of the research paper

Federal and state governments have traditionally regulated teacher quality with ex ante
certification requirements. To gain legal permission to teach, individuals are generally required
to study full-time for one or two years in an approved education program. However, recruiting
difficulties have forced many districts to hire large numbers of uncertified or alternatively
certified teachers. Despite the ubiquity of alternative teacher certification (AC) programs across
the country, there is little research on the relative quality of certified, uncertified, and AC
teachers. This is particularly regrettable given that AC teachers are more likely to work in urban
areas with low-income and low-achieving students. At this seminar, Professor Kane will discuss the results of reseach aimed to fill this gap in the literature with evidence from New York.

fall 2005  

October 26
Retrospective Voting in Single Function Elections:
School Boards and Student Achievement
William Howell (bio)
Associate Professor of Government, Harvard University, and Deputy Director, PEPG
About This Event

November 2
*Kennedy School of Government, Taubman 275 (map)

Choice, Accountability, and Performance in Public Schools
Angus McBeath (bio)
Senior Fellow on Public Education at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies
About This Event

November 16
The New Division of Labor: How Computers are Creating the Next Job Market
Richard Murnane (bio)
Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society, Harvard Graduate School of Education
About This Event

December 7
Mayoral Leadership Matters: Lessons Learned from Mayoral Control of Big-City Districts
Kenneth Wong (bio)
Director of the Urban and Education Policy Program and the Walter and Leonore Annenburg Professor in Education Policy, Brown University
About This Event

SPRING 2005  

March 22
Educational Adequacy in Massachusetts: Hancock v. Driscoll
Robert M. Costrell, Chief economist for the Commonwealth, in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, and professor of economics (on leave) at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst
Access Costrell's Commonwealth Magazine Article: "Wrong answer on school finances"

April 19
The Efficacy of Choice Threats within School Accountability Systems: Results from Legislatively Induced Experiments
Paul E. Peterson, Director, Program on Education Policy and Governance
Martin R. West, Research Associate, Program on Education Policy and Governance
PDF of Paper Available for Download

FALL 2004  

October 6
Impact of Vouchers on Public Schools: Evidence from Milwaukee
Rajashri Chakrabarti, Post Doctoral Fellow, Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University
PDF of Paper Available for Download

November 3
Charter Schools in Chicago: Evidence from a Randomized Field Trial
Caroline Hoxby, Professor of Economics, Harvard University
PDF of Paper Available for Download

December 15
The Economics of 'Acting White'
Roland Fryer, Harvard Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows, Harvard University
PDF of Paper Available for Download

SPRING 2004  

Friday, March 19
Common Sense School Reform
Frederick Hess, American Enterprise Institute
Visit the Publisher's Webpage for this Book

Wednesday, March 24
Do Charter Schools Promote Student Citizenship?
Jack Buckley, Boston College Department of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation
PDF of Paper Available for Download

Wednesday, April 7
School District Consolidation and Student Outcomes: Does Size Matter?
Christopher Berry, Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University
PDF of Paper Available for Download