High School Start Times and Student Achievement: Looking Beyond Test Scores

(with Matthew Lenard and Melinda Morrill)

Economics of Education Review, Volume 76, June 2020


The Role of Social Security in Retirement Timing: Evidence from a National Sample of Teachers

(with Melinda Morrill)

Journal of Pension Economics and Finance,  October 2019, 18(Special Issue 4) , 549-564.




The Effects of Early Literacy Policies on Student Achievement
(with Amy Cummings)
Job Market Paper

Given the importance of early literacy to long-term student success, by 2021, 41 states and the District of Columbia had adopted an early literacy policy to improve student literacy by the end of third grade. Using an event study approach, we examine the impacts of these policies on high- and low-stakes test scores. We find that adopting an early literacy policy improves elementary students’ reading achievement on high-stakes assessments. The largest gains occur in third grade and states with comprehensive early literacy policies, particularly those with third-grade retention requirements. However, we find little evidence of significant gains in low-stakes test scores except in states with comprehensive policies. Our results provide compelling evidence that early literacy policies improve achievement on high-stakes assessments, and these gains are equitably distributed. However, these high-stakes test-score gains may not necessarily lead to increased literacy learning, as evidenced by limited effects on low-stakes tests.


Heterogeneity in the Educational Impacts of Natural Disasters: Evidence from Hurricane Florence
(with Melinda MorrillRevise & Resubmit at Economics of Education Review

Link to Working Paper

Previously circulated under the title: "Which Students Are Most Impacted by Extended School Closures?"

In September 2018, Hurricane Florence caused widespread and extended school closures throughout North Carolina. Using a difference-in-differences framework, we explore within-school variation in the impact of hurricane-related schooling disruption on students’ end-of-grade test scores. Impacts were not concentrated on students performing at the lowest levels in the prior year nor on those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Rather, the estimates suggest that most students experienced small declines in test performance irrespective of baseline human capital or demographic group.

The Labor Market Consequences of Principal Performance Pay
Under Review
Link to Working Paper

This paper studies whether test score-based performance pay for public-school principals affects principals' labor market decisions. I leverage the introduction of a principal performance pay system in North Carolina in July 2017. The new compensation system removed experience and education as determinants of principal salaries; now, principal pay is determined by school test-score growth. I provide evidence that performance pay's financial incentives induce the sorting of principals within and exit from the principalship and the traditional public school labor force. One year after the introduction of performance pay, principals financially rewarded by the new compensation system were more likely to continue working as principals at a different school. Principals not financially rewarded, whose wages stagnate under the new performance pay system, were more likely to leave the principalship and exit or move into other positions. These labor market responses created compositional and distributional changes in the principal labor force. Performance pay induced exits from experienced principals but also principals managing persistently low-performing schools. At the same time, it attracted different principals to persistently low-performing schools. My results demonstrate that principal performance pay can push potentially ineffective principals out of their positions and attract principals to harder-to-staff, low-performing schools.




Following the Letter of the Law: Retention Outcomes Under Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law
(with Andrew Utter and Katharine O. Strunk)

The Accuracy of "Reading Deficiency" Identification: Evidence from Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law
(with Katharine O. Strunk and Andrew Utter)

Are You My Teacher? Intra-School Teacher Assignments in Michigan for Students with "Reading Deficiencies"
(with Katharine O. Strunk and Andrew Utter)


Diplomas Left Behind: The Impact of No Child Left Behind on High School Graduation