Which Universities Have The Best Education Policy Programs? #AEFP2015

Association for Education Finance and Policy

In just six days, the Association for Education Finance and Policy will host its 40th annual conference. This year’s conference will be held in frigid Washington D.C. If you are in the area and need to warm up, I suggest you stop in to the Washington Marriott Wardman Park conference rooms. You can bask in the glow of the AEFP Conference Stars. You should also stick around for session 10.11 – What is in Store for the Common Core: The Politics and Policy of Implementation.  The gloves may come off as Morgan Polikoff, Ashley Jochim, Mike McShane, and I square off on this hot topic. Oh, and some guy named Andy Smarick will be serving as the moderator, so it should be a good time.

Now, let’s get to what you’ve all been waiting for. Which universities have the best education policy programs? This is my second ranking of ed policy programs and the criteria remain the same as last year. My simple metric is the number of first authors on papers and posters. I have scoured the program and here is what I found.

2015 Ranking (2014 Ranking) University Number of Papers Number of Posters Total (∆)
1 (1) Vanderbilt 21 5 26 (+1)
2 (8) University of Virginia 16 5 21 (+8)
3 (7) Michigan State University 15 5 20 (+7)
4 (3) University of Arkansas 13 7 20 (+1)
5 (5) Stanford University 17 2 19 (+3)
6 (6) Columbia University 11 6 17 (+2)
7 (2) University of Southern California 13 4 17 (-6)
8 (NA) Harvard University 16 16 (NA)
9 (NA) New York University 9 3 12 (NA)
10 (10) University of Missouri 6 3 9 (-1)

You’ll notice that 8 of the top 10 education policy programs are repeats from last year with a little jostling in place. Washington and Wisconsin dropped from the list. That may be partly due to counting errors last year. It is possible that I miscounted presenters from those universities by not correctly distinguishing between individuals at different universities, e.g. the University of Washington and those at the University of Washington – Bothel.

Once again, Vanderbilt’s program remains at the top with a combined total of 26 first authorships. The University of Virginia jumped from 8th place to 2nd by increasing their paper total by 8. Number 3 Michigan State University also made a big jump from 7th to 3rd.

Combined, these 10 institutions contribute roughly 39 percent of all papers at the conference.

Congratulations to all the schools on the list and I’ll see you in a week.

Arkansas Should Drop PARCC for an NRT Next Year

James V. Shuls:

Replace Arkansas with Missouri and PARCC with Smarter Balanced.

Originally posted on Jay P. Greene's Blog:

Below is my oped in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on how Arkansas should drop the PARCC test next year and switch to a nationally normed referenced test to reduce teaching to the test, avoid unproductive fights over standards and testing, and stop bossing local schools and teachers around. It would also cost a lot less.

Opportunity arises

State has chance for better tests

Posted: February 14, 2015 at 1:58 a.m.

The Legislature is considering a number of proposals to alter the state’s current requirement that public schools administer the PARCC test, one of two federally funded tests aligned with the Common Core standards. These proposals are motivated by a variety of concerns, some of which are legitimate and reasonable and some which are not.

Whatever its legitimacy, the current debate is an excellent opportunity for Arkansas to reconsider why it requires testing…

View original 804 more words

School Choice Gaining Ground Throughout the Country…Meanwhile in Missouri

hands raised

In recent weeks, school choice has been on the march. Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker and Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence are each pushing to lift caps on their state’s voucher program. In New York, the Senate passed a tax credit scholarship bill, a measure backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Senate in Mississippi and the House of Delegates in Virginia recently passed an Education Savings Account bill. Meanwhile in Missouri, a tax credit scholarship bill sits on the desk of the chair of the Senate Education Committee.

For those who aren’t aware, the Missouri legislature is dominated by Republicans. They control 118 of 163 seats in the House and 25 of 34 seats in the Senate. The Missouri Republican party platform clearly states “the Missouri Republican Party SUPPORTS:

Efforts at the state and federal levels to adopt a fair system that grants parents the ability to help their children escape failing schools and attend schools of their choice—whether private, charter, home schooling, or public.

Yet, so few are carrying the mantle for school choice.

Will Missouri lawmakers hear the tax credit scholarship bill this session? Will they give serious consideration to expanding educational options for students? I sure hope so.

Federalist Society “The Future of Education in Kansas City” Panel Discussion and Open House


I am excited to be part of an upcoming panel hosted by The Federalist Society. The info is below:

The Federalist Society invites you and your friends, family and colleagues to attend a panel discussion in which we will debate the path forward for education in our community.

Should your ZIP code determine your educational choices? Do charter schools improve academic outcomes? What do local public schools need to succeed? Should tax credit scholarships be used to help students attend private schools? Should residents in struggling public schools get to transfer to neighboring districts?

These topics and more will be explored as our panelists debate the future of education in and around Kansas City, Mo.

The panel will feature the following influencers in the local education landscape:

  • James Shuls, Ph.D., Distinguished Fellow, Show Me-Institute, and Assistant Professor at University of Missouri—St. Louis
  • Andrea Flinders, President, Kansas City Federation of Teachers, Local 691
  • Douglas Thaman, Ed.D., Executive Director, Missouri Charter Public School Association
  • John Murphy, Public Policy Committee of the Missouri Catholic Conference

Admission is FREE, but please register below so we can ensure there is enough seating.
The event is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2015, at The Kansas City Club, 908 Baltimore Ave., Kansas City, MO 64105.

Join us for drinks (cash bar) and conversation after the event. We will be extending invitations across the education community, so it should be a great opportunity to meet people interested in the future of education in Kansas City.

More details on the panel discussion and open house will follow.

Have questions about Federalist Society “The Future of Education in Kansas City” Panel Discussion and Open House? Contact KC Federalist Society Lawyers Chapter

Presenting With The Stars

Dan Goldhaber receives the 2014 AEFP Service Award

Dan Goldhaber receives the 2014 AEFP Service Award

In every field, there are academics that stand out – the stars. Some are skilled methodologists, always coming up with unique ways of answering questions. Others are simply wonderful writers. And some have dynamic personalities that draw people to them. Academic stars also tend to be prolific. Sure there are occasional shooting stars who have one paper that gains acclaim, but the true stars are able to produce high-quality work consistently. In this post, I examine what the impact is of having a “star” on a panel at the Association for Education Finance and Policy’s 2014 conference.

As I explained in my previous post, “When do you want to present at AEFP?”, I have collected attendance data for the past several years at the AEFP conferences. This allows me to ask some incredibly important questions. Today’s question is, “What is the impact of having a star on a panel?”

The first question is how do you define an academic star?  We could identify stars by saying they are the individuals who have high attendance at their sessions, but I don’t want Jay Greene to criticize me for selecting on the dependent variable. Instead, I identified individuals who were listed as part of numerous panels (5 or more) and who have a good reputation as a scholar (based on my own subjective opinion). Now, if you were not on this list, don’t get your panties in a wad. This is a pointless blog and I’m sure you are terrific.

So, who are the stars of AEFP? Here they are:

Dan “The Man” Goldhaber, University of Washington – Bothell

“Oh” Susanna Loeb, Stanford University

David “Figaro, Figaro” Figlio, Northwestern University

Steve “EduGlaze”rman, Mathematica

Patrick “Hungry Like a” Wolf, University of Arkansas

Doug “I wrote the book on Value-Added” Harris, Tulane University

“Business Casual” Cory Koedel, University of Missouri – Columbia

In Table 1, I present the average attendance for panels in which these authors were listed. As you can see, the average attendance for each was higher for all of the stars. T-tests indicate that the average attendance was significantly higher for each star, except for Glazerman and Koedel.

Table 1: Mean Attendance for 2014 AEFP Sessions with Academic “Stars”

Scholar Number of Panels Mean Attendance Std. Dev. Min Max
Goldhaber 6 34.0** 18.5 16 67
Loeb 7 37.1*** 24.1 13 76
Figlio 7 33.3** 21.4 5 65
Glazerman 5 30.0 21.1 13 65
Wolf 5 33.8** 17.8 21 65
Harris 6 38.8*** 27.2 9 76
Koedel 6 26.3 5.2 18 31
Two or More Stars 7 36.3*** 24.6 13 76
Conference Total 108 22.3 12.0 5 76
*p.<0.1, **p.<0.05, ***p.<0.01

Of course, astute readers of the blog recall that sessions starting before 9:00 am and sessions on Saturday tend to have lower attendance. In an attempt to control for when the stars presented, I ran individual regressions for each scholar, using a dummy variable for the scholar. I ran three different specifications. In the first model, I included dummy variables for Friday and Saturday. In the second model, I included dummy variables for the two 8:00 am sessions, and in the third model I included an indicator for each session, with the first session being the baseline. In the interest of space, I do not include the coefficients on the other variables.

Table 2: Regression Coefficients for 2014 AEFP Sessions with Academic “Stars”

Scholar Controlling for Day of Week(1) Controlling for 8:00 am sessions(2) Controlling for Each Session(3)
Goldhaber 12.4** 12.3** 11.3**
Loeb 13.8*** 14.2*** 15.7***
Figlio 13.4*** 13.2*** 12.2***
Glazerman 9.1* 8.3 9.5*
Wolf 10.2* 10.3* 7.8
Harris 16.9*** 17.5*** 18.3***
Koedel 3.4 2.4 1.8
Two or More Stars 14.3*** 14.6*** 16.1***
*p.<0.1, **p.<0.05, ***p.<0.01

As you can see, depending on the model specification, attendance at panels in which a star was listed tended to be significantly higher. The one exception was Cory Koedel. In his defense, Koedel was on two panels relating to teacher pensions. So, there’s that. The real standout here seems to be Doug Harris. He is more of a draw than if two stars are on a panel together!

So what does this tell us? If you are presenting with the stars, you might expect to have higher attendance, on average, than if you are on a panel with lesser known scholars. We can’t know for sure why attendance will be higher. It could be that these individuals attend the conference with a large delegation from their universities or organizations and they may “bring their own” to the sessions. This could be true for a few of the stars. Loeb and Wolf, in particular, have a large number of individuals from their institutions attend AEFP. Another explanation could be that these individuals are able to get on well-rounded panels with other well-regarded scholars because of their gravitas. Of course, it could be that these scholars are stars that attract attendees. I’ll go with that one.

When Do You Want to Present at AEFP?

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2014 Presidential address from Jane Hannaway. Photo courtesy of AEFP

In just three weeks, education policy nerds researchers will converge on Washington D.C. I suppose our nation’s capital is used to being deluged with policy wonks. What makes this group of scholars different? Not much. Unless you consider they will be attending the world’s best education policy conference, hosted by the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP). I may be overselling it a bit, but I do enjoy a good AEFP conference.

For the past few years, I have volunteered to organize the attendance counting efforts at the annual AEFP conference. As the unofficial attendance czar, I have created a dataset which allows me to answer some important questions. To gear up for AEFP, I will be answering these questions on the blog. This week, I answer the all-important question – When do you want to present at AEFP?

The conference typically gets started around 10:00 am on Thursday and runs until Saturday afternoon. Assuming you want people to attend your session, the best day to present is Thursday. The Thursday sessions have significantly more people in attendance. In 2014, the Thursday sessions drew an average crowd of 27 people, compared with 22 and 17 on Friday and Saturday.

Table 1: 2014 AEFP Attendance by Day

Statistic Thursday Friday Saturday
Average Attendance 27 22 17
Minimum 9 5 6
Maximum 76 56 34
Total 847 985 554

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Thursday is when people show up and are raring to go. Plus, they are incentivized to stick around the conference by the welcome reception at the end of the day. By Saturday, people are worn out and are ready to pack it in.

Thursday’s average is also bolstered by the fact that none of the sessions begin before 10. I mean, who wants to get up at dressed to impress for an 8:00 am panel? In 2014, the 8:00 am sessions had almost 9 fewer attendees than the rest of the panels.

Below, I break out average attendance by hour for each day of the conference. The time indicates start time. As you can see, each day starts off slow, builds, and then trails off at the end. This trend is less pronounced on Thursday, as people stick around for the free appetizers.

avg attendance 2014

Now, I know some of you are looking at the program and thinking, “Darn, I have to present at 8:00 am on Saturday. This stinks.” Sure, you may not have the best attendance at your session, but don’t be discouraged. Any time is a good time to present at AEFP. And for those of you whose university is paying your way, remember the words of my good friend Gary Ritter, “Can you believe we’re getting paid to do this?” It sure beats the salt mines.