Four New Projects on Tap for Education Research Center
Topics Include Careers of Teach For America Teachers, Music Education's Impact on Student Persistence
Feb. 25, 2014
Dr. Rodney Andrews, senior researcher and director of the Texas Schools Project
Researchers from six universities across the country recently were approved for new projects using data from the UT Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC). The center’s joint advisory board accepted the four research projects, which focus on Texas students, teachers and schools, on Dec. 9.
Dr. Rodney Andrews, senior researcher and director of the Texas Schools Project, which houses the UTD-ERC, said the center aims to answer policy-relevant questions by using empirical methods and detailed data.
“According to the feedback from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and members of the advisory board, these [new endeavors] are the sorts of projects that could prove to be informative in regards to educational policy in the state of Texas, and certainly, nationally,” said Andrews, who also is an assistant professor of economics in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.
Andrews detailed the four new projects:
Project: Study of Teach for America Training on Principal Effectiveness and Career Patterns
Researcher: Dr. Eric A. Hanushek, executive committee chairman of the Texas Schools Project, of Stanford University
Background: The Teach for America (TFA) program creates a lot of discussion because it draws on graduates of some of the best undergraduate institutions in the country, Andrews said. It brings talented, motivated individuals into the classroom to see what kind of impact they can have pedagogically.
Impact: “There is an idea — and evidence supports it — that Teach For America teachers are different from other teachers in the K-12 system,” Andrews said. “There is some evidence that they have an impact on academic outcomes. This is a question of do TFA participants experience different career trajectories relative to ordinary teachers who are not part of the program?”
Project: The Effects of Postsecondary Educational Choices
Background: The project has several components, Andrews said. The researchers will examine the relationship between a student’s choice of college major and the subsequent labor market outcomes, the impact of targeted recruitment programs and the effects of particular majors on students.
Impact: “One of the more important topics today is trying to understand the choices that students make while they are in college,” Andrews said. “There’s a push to incentivize students to select STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) majors, but we know very little about the factors that ultimately lead students to pick a major. While we’re asking students to do different things, we don’t understand the efficacy of the policy levers that we might have at our disposal.”
Project: Music Education and Its Impact on Student Persistence
Researcher: Dr. Kathleen Thomas, TSP research fellow, of Mississippi State University
Background: Thomas is exploring a program that aims to incentivize music education, Andrews said. She wants to know whether there are benefits beyond students becoming more educated about music and performing arts, in this case, in regards to student persistence.
Impact: “[Cutting funding to these endeavors] might be a short-sided decision if there are benefits to those programs that decision-makers are not aware of when they decide where to allocate scarce resources,” Andrews said.
The UT Dallas Education Research Center facilitates education research that will benefit Texas students — from pre-K to college and into the workforce — by providing approved researchers access to individual-level administrative data to study the progress and performance of students, teachers and schools.
The center’s datasets include de-identified, individual-level data provided by the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Workforce Commission and National Student Clearinghouse.
Project: Program Quality, Price and Student Success in the Wake of Tuition Deregulation
Researchers: Andrews with Dr. Kevin Stange of the University of Michigan
Background: Tuition was deregulated in Texas in 2003, and the variability in costs across institutions is increasing, Andrews said. Colleges and universities now have the option to charge different prices based on majors, classification and other functions.
Impact: “We want to know what this price shock did with regards to student enrollment, major choice and then subsequent outcomes,” Andrews said. “These policies are all over the place. Some universities charge their business majors more because they think they’ll make more money when they graduate. Others charge engineering students a higher price because they use costly laboratory equipment. On the other hand, some schools subsidize majors because they want to encourage students to move into vocations supplied by those majors. Here’s a chance to provide some causal evidence on the impact of these policies.”