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In This Issue:

Advanced Placement Research Highlighted in New Book
The Effect of Housing Wealth on College Choice
Researcher Profile – Kurt Beron
Data Holdings Update

Advanced Placement Research Highlighted in New Book

This month, a new book entitled "AP: A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program" hit bookstands. One of the book’s co-authors is Kristin Klopfenstein, a senior researcher at Texas Schools Project and a leader in Advanced Placement research.

The book’s release comes at a time when much focus has been placed on the Advanced Placement Program (AP). Since its start in 1955, AP has been viewed as a highly rigorous academic program, providing motivated high school students with the opportunity to engage in college-level coursework and receive credit for such work. Recent attention, however, has been on the notion that AP can also prepare low-income and minority students for success in college. This newly expanded use of the program has contributed to its 9% annual growth over the last decade. In 2009, almost 1.7 million students took AP exams worldwide, with more than 17,000 schools participating in the program.

Klopfenstein’s research, included in two separate chapters of the book, looks at state policy issues related to AP growth and the effect of AP participation on time to college graduation.

When discussing state policy issues, Klopfenstein pointed out, “While there is evidence of a correlation between AP experience and college success (because AP students tend to be capable and highly motivated), there is no evidence from methodologically rigorous studies that AP experience causes students to be successful in college.”

She wrote, “Because the likelihood of success in AP is determined largely by prior academic experience and readiness for college-level work, it is unlikely that many of the students who are the target of an AP expansion will benefit. The assumption that the correlation between the AP Program and college success is causal leads well-intentioned administrators and policy makers to mandate 'helicopter drops' of AP Programs into schools that have neither a rigorous academic pipeline nor the resources to support the program.”

“It’s important that districts consider the opportunity cost of everything they do and that their actions are aligned with their institutional goals. If a district’s goal is to reduce the achievement gap, I’m not sure the AP Program is the best place to start,” said Klopfenstein.

The College Board, based in Princeton, NJ, created and operates the Advanced Placement Program. While the book offers a mixed review of AP, “Officials from the College Board . . . called the book a ‘landmark collection’ in an area where scholarship is badly needed,” wrote Debra Viadero, a journalist with Education Week.

Klopfenstein continues her AP research, looking at the effects of grade weighting on AP course taking. She recently presented her working paper, “The AP Arms Race: Is Grade Weighting to Blame?” at a Texas Schools Project Seminar. “I hope that my research contributes to the debate over how AP should be used in a logical way without the emotions that often accompany such discussions,” she said.

Read Jay Mathews’ Washington Post article, "Me vs. Smartest Critic of AP in Low-Income Schools."

View Dr. Klopfenstein’s presentation, “The AP Arms Race: Is Grade Weighting to Blame?”

Learn more about the book, “AP: A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program.”

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The Effect of Housing Wealth on College Choice

A growing literature shows a relationship between college quality and future earnings, with some research demonstrating 20-25% higher wages from attending an elite university.

Because so little is known about how students select colleges and how much financial constraints matter with respect to college choice, Mike Lovenheim of Cornell University and C. Lockwood Reynolds of Kent State University developed a study that uses a plausibly exogenous source in wealth - namely, the increase in housing wealth variation supplied by the recent housing boom - to determine the causal relationship between wealth and college choice.

“85-90% of college attendees come from homeowner households,” shared Lovenheim in at a presentation of his research during a recent Texas Schools Project seminar.

Estimating multinomial logit models of college choice, Lovenheim and Reynolds examine how variation in home price growth affects the likelihood of enrolling in a state flagship, a four-year private, or a community college relative to a non-flagship four-year school. They find that each $10,000 increase in home prices in the four years prior to turning 18 years old increases the likelihood of attending a state flagship and decreases the likelihood of attending a community college, especially for lower-income households.

“During the housing boom, homeowners used their home wealth to finance a higher-quality college education for their children,” Lovenheim concludes. “Because home prices have fallen by 32% since their peak in 2006, our results suggest that this decline could reduce the quality of schools attended by students, particularly those from lower-income families.”

View Dr. Lovenheim’s presentation, “The Effect of Housing Wealth on College Choice: Evidence from the Housing Boom.”

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Researcher Profile – Kurt Beron

Kurt Beron is a professor of economics and public policy at The University of Texas at Dallas and a senior researcher with Texas Schools Project. He has also served UT Dallas in a variety of capacities, including as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) faculty athletic representative, the institutional representative to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, and the Associate Dean and College Master for the School of Social Sciences. Most recently, Kurt was the chair of the NCAA Research Committee where he oversaw association-wide research activities across all divisions of the NCAA.

In addition to education, Kurt’s research interests include cross-disciplinary applications of quantitative methodology, working on projects spanning economics, sociology, and psychology. His work has been published in The Review of Economics and Statistics, Southern Economic Journal, American Journal of Sociology, The Journal of Economic Education and Social Forces, among others.

Kurt is using UTD-ERC data in a current research project with Nikhil Jha entitled “Determinants of Heterogeneity in Math Skill Development.” The goal of this project is to seek determinants explaining middle and high school student trajectories in math skills and the effect of policy variables on these trajectories.

In discussing the study, Kurt explained, “We begin assuming a single, but heterogeneous, population and extend this to models that separate students into different classes with separate, group-based heterogeneity using a finite-mixture latent trajectory model.” Because such a large panel dataset was required, UTD-ERC data was a natural fit.

Kurt hopes the results of this study will help inform Texas policymakers who have expressed an interest in improving math education in the state.

In another project, Kurt is involved in the construction of achievement measures for the Comptroller of Public Account’s Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST), work mandated as part of HB 3, passed by the Texas legislature last session. The study will identify school districts and campuses that combine high academic achievement and cost-effective operations.

When discussing the study, Kurt commented, “My multi-disciplinary background of economics, psychology, sociology, and education is proving to be highly beneficial in my work on the Comptroller’s study. Understanding, and modeling, how much progress students have made from one year to the next has called on methodological work in each of the various disciplines and has also made me aware of the similarities and differences that each of these disciplines have in studying this issue.”

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Data Holdings Update - April 22, 2010

The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC), part of Texas Schools Project, houses a wealth of data provided by the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and State Board for Educator Certification.

A complete listing of current data available can be found on our website under Data Holdings.

Information on accessing this data can be found on our website under Access.

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