Faculty Findings - Spring 2020

May 22, 2020
Children in cafeteria

Robin Jacob on closing early childhood achievement gaps

The first five years of a child’s life are considered the most critical for development. But for too many children from low-income households, learning opportunities in those first years lag behind those available to their peers from higher-income households. Often, these children are not able to catch up and fall further behind as they go through school.

The High 5s math enrichment program was developed at the University of Michigan by Robin Jacob, Anna Erickson, and Kristi Hanby (U-M Education PhD), with assistance from MDRC and math experts, Doug Clements and Julie Sarama (University of Denver), to help close this achievement gap.

New research from Robin Jacob and colleagues assessed the impact of High 5s on children’s math skills, attitudes towards math, language ability, and executive function for a sample of kindergarten students in New York City. The study found the High 5s program closed nearly a fifth (18%) of the math achievement gap between low-income children and their peers on one of two measures of math achievement. This research provides preliminary evidence that engaging, hands-on, small group instruction may help close the math achievement gap in kindergarten.

Anna Erickson (Ford School MPP ‘12) is a co-author on this paper. Read "Evaluating the Impact of Small Group Supplemental Math Enrichment in Kindergarten" in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.

Graduation caps

Kevin Stange on college access

Colleges and universities--pressed by shrinking public support--have sought to maintain high-quality programs in part by raising tuition, and the increases show no signs of stopping. That leaves schools searching for ways to ensure higher-education accessibility for socio-economically disadvantaged students.

When Texas deregulated higher education in 2003, it allowed more flexibility in pricing and required more need-based financial aid, leading to tuition hikes for high-earning majors, such as business and engineering. Those decisions gave Ford School professor Kevin Stange and his colleagues a perfect testing ground for researching a high-price, high-aid tuition model.

Stange found that by raising tuition costs across the board while also increasing financial aid packages to select groups, socio-economically disadvantaged students entered college programs and pursued more lucrative majors--closing the post-college earnings gap between poor and non-poor students by more than a third.

“Free tuition is not the only way to increase [college] access. [Texas’s reform] is an example that's the opposite of free tuition, and yet it didn't hurt access. It might even have helped access,” says Stange.

This study was conducted with Rodney J. Andrews (Ford School trainee and U-M Economics PhD ‘07). Read "Price Regulation, Price Discrimination, and Equality of Opportunity in Higher Education: Evidence from Texas" in the American Economic Journal.

Learn more about the Ford School research centers

Robin Jacob is co-founder and director of the Youth Policy Lab, one of the Ford School’s nine research centers. YPL helps community and government agencies make better decisions by measuring what really works in the social sector. Using rigorous evaluation design and data analysis, YPL works closely with partners to build a future where public investments are based on strong evidence, so all Michiganders have a pathway to prosperity. Learn more: youthpolicylab.umich.edu

Stange is a faculty lead for the Education Policy Initiative. The central mission of the Education Policy Initiative (EPI) is to engage in applied education policy research. EPI brings together nationally-recognized education policy scholars focused on the generation and dissemination of policy-relevant education research. Learn more: edpolicy.umich.edu

Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2020 State & Hill.

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