Education and Inequality in 21st Century America

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 12:00am to Friday, May 20, 2016 - 12:00am


CERAS Learning Hall

Education and Inequality in 21st Century America

May 19-20, 2016
Stanford Graduate School of Education


Racial, socioeconomic, and gender disparities in academic performance and educational attainment are stubborn features of the U.S. educational system. These disparities are neither inevitable nor immutable, however. They have been produced by—and so may also be reduced by—a welter of social and economic policies, social norms and patterns of interaction, and the organization of American schooling.

At this conference, leading scholars of education policy and educational inequality will present new research on the causes, patterns, trends, and consequences of academic achievement gaps and educational disparities, and on the effectiveness of various strategies to eliminate them.

In addition, the conference will introduce the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA), a dataset of measures of academic achievement and achievement gaps in every public school and school district in the U.S. SEDA is based on student performance on over 200 million tests administered in grades 3-8 from 2009 through 2013. The SEDA data will be made publicly available in early May, 2016. The conference will include several training sessions for participants interested in the data and statistical methods underlying the construction of SEDA and in methods for analyzing and interpreting the SEDA data.

Thursday May 19, 2016
9:00-9:10 Welcome and Introduction
Tom Dee (Director of CEPA, Stanford University)
9:10-10:00 Opening Plenary: "The Landscape of Educational Inequality in the U.S."
Sean F. Reardon (Stanford University). The Landscape of U.S. Educational Inequality
10:00-10:15 Break
10:15-12:00 Session 1: "Can Federal Education Policy Reduce Educational Inequality?"
Rucker Johnson (UC Berkeley). Lessons from Equal Education Opportunity Policy: Connecting the Past, Present, & Future
Tom Dee (Stanford University). Accountability and Achievement, NCLB to ESSA
Discussant: Christopher Edley (UC Berkeley)
12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00-2:45 Session 2: "Inequality in American Higher Education"
Raj Chetty/John Friedman (Stanford University/Brown University). The Distribution of Student and Parent Income Across Colleges in the United States
Michal Kurlaender (UC Davis). Inequality in American Higher Education: Gaps in Postsecondary Outcomes at Broad Access Institutions
Discussant: Eric Bettinger (Stanford University)
2:45-3:00 Break
3:00-4:00 Session 3: "Choice, Markets, and Educational Inequality"
Jennifer Jennings (NYU). Administrative Complexity as a Barrier to School Choice: Evidence from New York City
Isaac Mcfarlin (University of Michigan). Educational Opportunity for All? A Field Experiment on Discrimination in Public Schools of Choice

Administrative Complexity as a Barrier to School Choice: Evidence from New York City

Jennifer Jennings, NYU

School choice systems are often faulted for placing an undue burden on families to research and evaluate schools, and to navigate complex applications processes. A particular concern is that many low-income and otherwise disadvantaged families lack the resources, information, and social networks to fully engage with the process and make optimal choices. Aside from qualitative data, however, there is little direct evidence on the extent to which system complexity itself inhibits access to quality schools. In this paper, we examine New York City’s practice of awarding priority admissions to academically non-selective high schools for students who attend an open house, information session, or school fair. Using data from 2014-15, we find that disadvantaged students—including low-income, low-achieving, black, and Hispanic students—are significantly less likely to obtain priority admission status. This disparity has consequences, as we find applicants with priority are much more likely to be matched to their chosen school, especially when that school is high-performing. Drawing on our own surveys, interviews, and original collection of open house dates, we highlight ways in which the current system presents challenges to families with limited time, resources, and access to information.

Inequality in American Higher Education: Gaps in Postsecondary Outcomes at Broad Access Institutions

Michal Kurlaender, UC Davis

Despite increases in college participation across all groups over the past several decades, gaps in college completion by race and family income persist. I present socioeconomic and racial/ethnic gaps in postsecondary persistence, performance, and degree completion among students enrolled at the nation’s two largest non-selective public higher education systems: the California Community Colleges and the California State University campuses. I evaluate whether differences in both student inputs (e.g. financial constraints, academic preparation, major), as well as high school quality and postsecondary institutional differences contribute to the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic gaps in postsecondary performance and attainment.

Educational Opportunity for All? A Field Experiment on Discrimination in Public Schools of Choice

Isaac McFarlin, Jr., University of Florida

School choice programs have been adopted in many countries and are controversial. Advocates argue they give families the opportunity to select schools that are the best match for children. Critics argue school choice programs limit access to students who are the hardest to educate. Evaluating whether choice schools discriminate using traditional data sources is difficult because disparities in enrollment rates across types of students may reflect preferences. We conduct a national randomized audit study to evaluate whether charter schools discriminate against certain types of applicants.

4:00-5:00 Session 4: "Early Childhood Education and Inequality"
Daphna Bassok (University of Virginia)
Pamela Morris (NYU). Making Universal Pre-K Work: A Partnership Approach to Quality at Scale
5:00-6:00 Reception; Predoc/Postdoc Poster Session

Predoc/Postdoc Poster Session

A picture of achievement: Socioeconomic status, dialect use, and standard measures of language sampling. Lisa Fitton, Florida State University

Advanced Math Course Options in Michigan Public High Schools. Sarah Cannon, University of Michigan

An early algebra intervention's positive impact on students in grades 3-5. Michael Eiland, University of Wisconsin

Are Black-White Achievement Gaps All about Content Mastery? Estimating Gaps that Consider Test Engagement. Jim Soland, Northwest Evaluation Association

DREAMing of College: The Impact of Restrictive and Accommodating In-State Resident Tuition Policies for Undocumented Students on College Choice and Preparation. Brian Holzman , Stanford University

Educators As “Equity Warriors”. Jane Rochmes, Stanford University

Evaluating the Effect of Grade Retention on Academic and Psychosocial Outcomes: Implications for Research, Policy, and Practice. Sophia Hwang, New York University

Exploring the Latino-White Achievement Gap Across Disability Classifications Over Time. Daniel Anderson, University of Oregon

Family Stress Processes and Children’s Cognitive Self-Regulation. Chelsea Duran, University of Virginia

Financing Special Education: Spending, Incentives and Cross-subsidization in Michigan’s Public and Charter Schools. Meg Jalilevand, Michigan State University

Fostering parent-child interactions around math using an iPad app to boost math achievement. Talia Berkowitz, University of Chicago

Gender Achievement Gaps in U.S. School Districts. Rosalia Zarate, Stanford University

Inequality of Item-functioning across SES levels with Kaufman Brief Intelligence. Callie Little, Florida State University

Predictors of Change in Academic Expectations of Hispanic High School Students. Emily May, Pennsylvania State University

Tenure Reform in New York City: Do More Rigorous Standards Improve Teacher Effectiveness?. Aliza Husain, University of Virginia

Test Format and the Variation of Gender Achievement Gaps within the U.S. Erin Fahle, Stanford University

The Causal Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum. Emily Penner, Stanford University

The Effect of Violent Crime on Economic Mobility. Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, New York University

The Effects of Welfare Work Requirements on High School Dropout and Teen Unemployment: TANF as a Conditional Cash Transfer. Sarah A. Komisarow, University of Chicago

The Gap within the gap: Using longitudinal data to understand income gaps in educational outcomes. Katherine Michlmore, University of Michigan

The potential of computer assisted instruction in reducing mathematics disparities by increasing the mathematics proficiency of Hispanic dual language learners in kindergarten. Matthew Foster, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

The Role of Academic Attitudes in Unpacking the ‘Suspension Effect’. Jaymes Pyne, University of Wisconsin

Transitional Kindergarten vs. Prekindergarten: A Fuzzy Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Student Literacy Skills. Chris Doss, Stanford University

Where students stand: A theoretical framework for investigating student's social comparison as a mechanism for the relationship between inequality and education. Jason Rarick, New York University

Working for College: The Causal Impacts of Financial Grants on Undergraduate Employment. Katharine Broton, University of Wisconsin

Friday May 20, 2016
9:00-10:15 Session 5: "Stress, Development, and Inequality"
Emma Adam (Northwestern University). Race-Related Stress and Academic Disparities: New Models and Mechanisms
Jelena Obradović (Stanford University). Early Adversity, Executive Functioning, and Physiological Responsivity: Implications for Educational Inequality

Race-Related Stress and Academic Disparities: New Models and Mechanisms

Emma Adam, Northwestern University

Substantial racial-ethnic disparities remain in educational outcomes; these gaps are not fully explained by known mechanisms. In this talk, we present a new theoretical model proposing that psychological stress associated with being a member of a racial/ethnic minority group and the psychological and biological responses elicited by that stress may be a factor contributing to the black-white achievement gap. We present initial evidence from a 20-year longitudinal study showing that developmental histories of exposure to racial discrimination are associated both with dysregulated stress hormone patterns, and with lower academic attainment in adulthood. We also investigate factors that help to reduce the impact of histories of discrimination on adult outcomes.

Early Adversity, Executive Functioning, and Physiological Responsivity: Implications for Educational Inequality

Jelena Obradović, Stanford University

Socioeconomic disparities in education outcomes have been shown to emerge in early childhood and persist throughout the school years. In this talk, Dr. Obradović will discuss how early caregiving context undermines or supports development of executive functions (EFs), a set of higher-order cognitive skills that are linked to greater school readiness, school engagement, and academic achievement. She will present how children’s physiological stress reactivity can serve as a marker of biological sensitivity to context, in that highly sensitive children may thrive in supportive environments but be at risk for maladaptation in adverse environments. She will also show how EFs relate to children’s dynamic measures of physiological reactivity and recovery, and as such may help children achieve the optimal arousal and well-regulated behavior that supports development and learning.

10:15-10:30 Break
10:30-12:15 Session 6: "Small Interventions, Large Impacts?"
Geoff Cohen (Stanford University)
David Yeager (University of Texas). Considerations for the design and evaluation of modest psychological interventions on a national scale
Jason Okonofua (Stanford University). Brief Intervention to Encourage Empathic Discipline Halves Suspension Rates Among Adolescents

Considerations for the design and evaluation of modest psychological interventions on a national scale

David Yeager, University of Texas

There are many promising psychological interventions that have reduced inequality in the samples in which they were initially tested. Yet there is no clear methodology for preparing them to be scaled up, or for evaluating their effects on educational inequalities on a national scale. This talk first develops a method for systematically revising intervention materials for broader use, by drawing on the traditions of user-centered-design as well as rapid A/B experimentation. This method is evaluated with data from over 11,000 students who participated in randomized experiments. The talk next develops a conceptual framework for the conditions under which a psychological intervention with broad applicability might reduce a portion of group-based inequalities. Finally, the talk describes the "National Mindset Study," which is designed to evaluate the effects of a growth mindset + prosocial purpose intervention in a national probability sample of 83 high schools (>18,000 students). The study created a stratified sampling frame of schools to unconfound school racial composition with school achievement level, to test which type of inequality might be affected by the intervention.

Brief Intervention to Encourage Empathic Discipline Halves Suspension Rates Among Adolescents

Jason Okonofua, Stanford University

There is increasing concern about rising discipline citations in K-12 schooling and a lack of means to reduce them. Predominant theories characterize this problem as the result of punitive discipline policies (e.g., zero-tolerance policies), teachers’ lack of interpersonal skills, or students’ lack of self-control or social-emotional skills. By contrast, the present research examined teachers’ mindsets about discipline. A brief intervention aimed at encouraging an empathic mindset about discipline halved student suspension-rates over an academic year. This intervention, an online exercise, can be delivered at near-zero marginal cost to large samples of teachers and students. These findings could mark a paradigm shift in society’s understanding of the origins of and remedies for discipline problems.

12:15-1:30 Lunch
1:30-3:00 SEDA Training Session 1: The Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA)
Kenneth Shores (Stanford University). Components of SEDA
Andrew Ho (Harvard University). Linking U.S. School District Test Score Distributions to a Common Scale, 2009-2013
Benjamin R. Shear/Katherine Castellano (Stanford University/ETS). Estimation of District Test Score Distributions from Coarsened Data

Linking U.S. School District Test Score Distributions to a Common Scale, 2009-2013

Andrew Ho, Harvard University

In the U.S., there is no recent database of district-level test scores that is comparable across states. We construct and evaluate such a database for years 2009-2013 to support large-scale educational research. First, we derive transformations that link each state test score scale to the scale of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Next, we apply these transformations to a unique nationwide database of district-level means and standard deviations, obtaining estimates of each districts’ test score distribution expressed on the NAEP measurement scale. We then conduct a series of validation analyses designed to assess the validity of key assumptions underlying the methods and to assess the extent to which the districts’ transformed distributions match the districts’ actual NAEP score distributions (for a small subset of districts where the NAEP assessments are administered). We also examine the correlations of our estimates with district test score distributions on a second “audit test”—the NWEA MAP test, which is administered to populations of students in several thousand school districts nationwide. Our linking method yields estimated district means with a root mean square deviation from actual NAEP scores of roughly 1/10th of a standard deviation unit in any single year or grade. The correlations of our estimates with average district means over years and grades are .97-.98 for NAEP and 0.93 for the NWEA test. We conclude that the linking method is accurate enough to be used in large-scale educational research about national variation in district achievement, but that the small amount of linking error in the methods renders fine-grained distinctions or rankings among districts in different states invalid.

3:00-3:15 Break
3:15-4:30 SEDA Training Session 2: Using SEDA to Study Educational Inequality
Erin Fahle (Stanford University)
Sean Reardon (Stanford University)
Travel Reimbursements

Thank you for attending the conference. We will reimburse for airfare, transportation to/from the airport (taxis, ubers, etc.) and meals. We can cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Wednesday; dinner on Thursday; and lunch and dinner on Friday.

Note: All meal receipts must be itemized. Airfare receipts must show departure and arrival airport, class of ticket, and method of payment (this is usually the last 4 digits of your credit card).


The conference will begin at 9AM on May 19th 2016. Please see the agenda for more details.

The conference will be held in Rm. 101 located on the first floor of the CERAS Bldg. at 520 Galvez Mall, Stanford, CA 94305.


We recommend staying at the Stanford Terrace Inn located at 531 Stanford Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306. Room information and prices can be found on their website - The hotel is walking distance from campus or easily accessible via shuttles/cabs.


The closest parking to the CERAS building is Parking Structure 6 located at 560 Wilbur Way. It’s an underground garage with paid parking available.