Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
High School Graduation, School Starting Age, Student Achievement, Student Behavior
This dissertation examines the student academic achievement through various mechanisms, put in place by the public school district, classroom student behavior, and negative external shocks to the students' living environment. I examine the impacts of various treatments on student short and long run academic outcomes such as math and English test scores, grade retention, special education diagnoses, as well as high school graduation. Each essay will be presented as a chapter of the dissertation.
The first essay uses student-level administrative data from New York City Public Schools to examine the impacts of school entry age on student academic outcomes (including test scores and high school graduation) and behavioral outcomes (such as suspensions and chronic absenteeism) for students in grades three through ten. My research design uses exogenous variation in students' month of birth, comparing the outcomes of students born just before to students born just after the school starting age cutoff date. I present evidence that entering school early increases the probability of high school graduation, among white, black, and Hispanic students. Starting school early has no effect on suspensions and chronic absenteeism. I find that starting school early has a negative effect on grade specific measures such as, test scores, GPA, retention, and special education.
The second essay uses exogenous variation on course scheduling in Chicago Public Schools to examine empirical implications of Lazear's (2001) educational production model. This essay investigates an underlying mechanism by which class size affects student performance, the behavioral composition of a classroom. Behavioral composition is defined as the number of non-disruptive students who are in attendance on a given school day, where attendance is not randomly assigned. To properly identify the effect of classroom behavioral composition, we use random course scheduling to instrument for non-random attendance throughout the school day. Consistent with the Lazear framework, we find that an additional non-disruptive student in attendance increases the probability of passing English I and Algebra I, with larger effects for students in remedial versus regular classes. For regular English I students, we estimate a positive relationship between the number of non-disruptive students in attendance and own reading test score.
The final essay examines the impacts of the events following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 where animosity geared towards the Arab community increased significantly. Specifically, we analyze the performance of Arab students in New York City public schools pre and post the terrorist attacks and compare the effects to non-Arab Muslim as well as Indian students in the same schools. We analyze the impacts of September 11 on the student achievement of Arab students enrolled in grades 3 through 8. We use a difference-in-differences approach using non-Arab Muslim students as a control group. We find that Arab students experience a decline in their scholastic performance post-9/11 by as much as 0.077 and 0.101 student level standard deviations in ELA and math test scores, respectively. We also find that retention and special education rates among Arab students post-9/11, increase by 62.8 and 16.8 percent, respectively.
Moussa, Wael Soheil, "Essays on Academic Achievement and Student Behavior in Public Schools" (2013). Economics - Dissertations. 97.