OVAE Connection Issue 176 December 5, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                       OVAE Connection - Issue 176, December 5, 2013

OVAE Welcomes Karla Ver Bryck Block

karla block

OVAE recently welcomed Karla Ver Bryck Block as the Monitoring and Administration Team leader in the Division of Adult and Education Literacy (DAEL). Ver Bryck Block began her federal career with the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education, where she worked on the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays international grant programs and was responsible for evaluation, budget, dissemination, and outreach. She later worked as the director of the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement at George Mason University. She also was a special assistant to the assistant director of the Office of State, Local, and Tribal Coordination in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Prior to serving in these positions she taught high school in rural South Africa.

Ver Bryck Block earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She is an alumna of the Presidential Management Intern Program and the federal Executive Potential ProgramClick to edit this placeholder text.

Improving Student Achievement Through Information

Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer, Jr., has authored Information and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Cellular Phone Experiment, a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. It addresses a recent effort to improve student achievement by providing students with enhanced information about the link between what he calls “human capital” and future outcomes as a result of their educations. This information is delivered to students daily via text messages to cell phones provided at no charge

Fryer posits that providing the information could have one of three effects, each of which has been argued for in the research literature. First, when students lack accurate information and expect less out of school than they should, providing information could motivate greater effort and consequent achievement. Second, if students expect more out of school than they should, providing information could motivate reduced effort and consequent achievement. Third, providing information is likely to have no effect on effort and achievement if students do not understand how production works, do not care about future, or already hold accurate beliefs about the returns of schooling.

To discriminate among the three effects, researchers established three treatment groups and one pure control group from among students in the Oklahoma City public schools. To measure direct outcomes, students were tested on their abilities to answer specific questions about the relationship between such characteristics as their competencies, knowledge, and social and personality attributes on the one hand, and outcomes such as income and incarceration on the other. The answers had previously been provided to the students. With regard to this transmission of information, the treatment effects were uniformly positive.

With regard to indirect outcomes, “such as state test scores, attendance, and self-reported effort,” Fryer found mixed results. For example, students who received the information treatment were “more likely to report feeling more ‘focused’ or excited about doing well in school” and to believe that other students felt the same. These findings contrasted sharply with those on all administrative outcomes—that is, “mathematics or English Language Arts test scores, student attendance, or behavioral incidence”—where “no evidence that any treatment had a statistically significant impact” was found, although the findings did not rule out small to moderate effects.

Fryer concludes that the “patterns in the data appear most consistent with a model in which students cannot translate effort into measureable output, though other explanations are possible.” If this is correct, then the common belief that by giving students information and counseling about how academic achievement will result in positive labor market and other outcomes educators will motivate student effort and lead to improved achievement is incorrect. Fryer also concludes that future work is needed—and worthwhile doing—to determine what would be an effective combination with  giving students information about the returns on schooling that would bring about better student achievement

State Data-based Profiles Underscore Need for Adult Education Programs

OVAE recently released infographics with the title Tapping the Potential: Profile of Adult Education Target Population. These profiles are available for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as for the country as a whole. Using Census data, the profiles display the percentages of adults without a high school credential or English proficiency by age, gender, race, and ethnicity, and their participation rates in the labor market and in adult education. The graphics also cover both the federal and state investment in adult education by year for 2009 and 2010. To find the individual state profiles as well as frequently asked questions about the data and the findings, click here.