2018 Annual Report

Thank you for a great 2018! This year, MIT Blueprint Labs researchers contributed to a deeper understanding of topics such as school vouchers, automation, measures of school quality, charter schools, and more. Here are a few highlights:

In a timely examination of school vouchers, Blueprint Director Parag Pathak and Faculty Affiliates Atila Abdulkadiroğlu and Christopher Walters evaluate the Louisiana Scholarship Program, a program designed to provide disadvantaged students access to private schools. The paper finds that the use of these vouchers substantially reduce academic achievement.

Taking on questions of automation, artificial intelligence, and the future of the economy, Blueprint Co-director David Autor and Anna Salomons examine the effects of automation on labor outputs. They find that automation has not reduced the number of jobs, but it has reduced the share of national income allocated to wages.

Blueprint researchers also published working papers that evaluate measures of school quality, effects of charter school expansions, the impact of summer STEM programs, and school admissions decisions in Taiwan.

Our team received several honors from the academic community this year. Parag Pathak was awarded the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal for his contributions to market design and education policy. Joshua Angrist received the Eugene Fama Prize for his influential textbook Mostly Harmless Econometrics, authored with Jorn-Steffen Pischke. David Autor was appointed a MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellow for his contributions to undergraduate education.

Finally, the organization expanded its outreach to school districts and policymakers, hosting the first MIT School Access and Quality Summit in November 2018. The event brought together researchers and decision-makers in K-12 education for conversations about how to measure school quality and improve access to high-quality public schools.

The entire Blueprint Labs team thanks you for your continued interest and engagement as we continue our work in 2019!

 

Josh Angrist
Director, Blueprint Labs
Professor of Economics, MIT

 

Parag Pathak
Director, Blueprint Labs
Professor of Economics, MIT

 

David Autor
Co-Director, Blueprint Labs
Professor of Economics, MIT

 

Please note: Prior to July 2021, Blueprint Labs was named the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative (SEII). Mentions of SEII have been edited to reflect our new name.

Research

Selected Published Articles

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila, Parag Pathak, and Christopher Walters. “Free to Choose: Can School Choice Reduce Student Achievement? American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, January 2018, 10(1): 175-206.

    • School vouchers allow families to use public funds to pay for private school tuition. Many local, state, and federal entities have promoted this practice, but studies on voucher effectiveness are still emerging. Parag, Atila, and Chris add to the evidence by evaluating the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), a voucher system that allows disadvantaged students to attend private schools of their choice. The authors find that these vouchers reduce average test scores and increases the likelihood of a failing score in math, reading, science, and social studies. Negative effects are likely linked to the selection of lower-quality private schools into the voucher program. The findings challenge some assumptions about school choice and raise important questions about how to hold lower performing private schools accountable for their performance.

Autor, David and Anna Salomons. “Is Automation Labor-Displacing? Productivity Growth, Employment, and the Labor Share.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, February 2018.

    • Will automation and artificial intelligence will be disastrous for the economic wellbeing of workers in the 21st century? David and Anna use four decades of data from 28 industries in 19 countries to explore the effects of automation on labor outcomes. The authors find that automation has not negatively impacted employment during this time period, but there has been a decrease in the share of national income allocated to wages. Falling wage income has implications for broader considerations such as income inequality.
    • Press coverage: Brookings Now

Selected Working Papers

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila, Joshua Angrist, Yusuke Narita, and Parag Pathak. “Impact Evaluation in Matching Markets with General Tie-Breaking. NBER Working Paper 24172.

    • How well do school accountability measures capture performance? The answer to this question has large implications for policymakers and students. Atila, Josh, Yusuke, and Parag use innovative econometric techniques to evaluate New York City’s high school progress assessments, which are designed to give schools letter grades as a measure of school quality. They find that Grade A schools improve SAT math scores and increase the likelihood of graduating, though these increases are less than traditional value-added models suggest. Grade A attendance also boosts measures of college and career readiness.

Cohodes, Sarah, Elizabeth Setren, and Christopher Walters. “Can Successful Schools Replicate Scaling Up Boston’s Charter School Sector. SEII Discussion Paper #2016.06.

    • Can successful schools replicate in a new location, or are their achievements contingent on individual school, staff, and student characteristics? Sarah, Elizabeth, and Chris explore this question by examining a policy reform that allows effective charter schools in Boston to replicate their school model in new locations. Estimates based on randomized admission lotteries show that replication charter schools generate large achievement gains on par with those produced by their parent campuses. Standardized practices at these schools may help with the replication process.
    • Press coverage: Chalkbeat, Boston Globe Opinion

Ridley, Matthew and Camille Terrier. “Fiscal and Education Spillovers from Charter School Expansion.Blueprint Discussion Paper #2018.02.

    • A common critique of charter schools is that they drain financial resources from the district and poach the most motivated or highest-achieving students from traditional public schools. Matthew and Camille examine whether or not this critique holds weight in Massachusetts after a 2011 reform that lifted the cap on charter schools. In surprising results, they show that greater charter attendance increases per-pupil expenditures in traditional public schools and induces them to shift expenditure from support services to instruction and salaries. At the same time, charter expansion has a small positive effect on non-charter students’ achievement.
    • Press coverage: the 74Million, Education Next

Robles, Sylvia. The Impact of a STEM-Focused Summer Program on College and Major Choices Among Underserved High-Achievers.Blueprint Discussion Paper #2018.03.

    • Sylvia’s study evaluates a STEM-focused summer program for high-achieving, underserved high school students. This program was held annually at a selective, private university. Sylvia finds that the program increases application and enrollment rates at selective universities and persistence in STEM.

Dur, Umut, Parag Pathak, Fei Song, and Tayfun Sonmez. “Deduction Dilemmas: The Taiwan Assignment Mechanism. NBER Working Paper 25024.

    • Innovative enrollment systems and their controversies aren’t limited to the United States. Umut, Parag, Fei, and Tayfun analyze the “Taiwan mechanism” used for high school placement in Taiwan since 2014. The mechanism shares some similarities to different sorting mechanisms used in Boston, the United Kingdom, and several US cities, but also has unique specifications, including a point deduction based on student preferences. The study sheds light on why this enrollment system has led to protests in Taiwan and why it still used.

Reports

Benner, Meg and Ulrich Boser. “Expanding Access to High-Quality Schools. Center for American Progress, November 2018.

    • The Center for American Progress released a report that outlines school choice algorithms studied by Parag and the Blueprint team. These algorithms – known as deferred acceptance (DA) and top trading cycles (TTC) – help students to choose schools without strategizing and assign students to schools based on their preferences. The report offers an accessible explanation of these mechanisms.

Honors and Awards

Parag Pathak, Blueprint Director

John Bates Clark Medal

The John Bates Clark Medal is awarded to the economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. Parag received this award for his work on market design and its application to education policy. Parag was also featured as one of the eight best young economists of the decade by the Economist in late 2018.

Joshua Angrist, Blueprint Director & Jorn-Steffen Pischke

Eugene Fama Prize

If you take a look at any economist’s bookshelf, chances are they’ll have a copy of Mostly Harmless Econometrics: An Empiricist’s Companion. Josh and Jorn were awarded Chicago Booth’s Eugene Fama prize for the book’s impact on doctoral education.

David Autor, Blueprint Co-director

MIT MacVicar Fellowship

When universities find a faculty member who excels at both teaching and research, it’s a win for the institution and the thousands of students who enroll in courses over that faculty’s tenure. Blueprint’s David Autor was awarded the MacVicar Faculty Fellowship for his outstanding contributions to undergraduate education, including exceptional teaching and mentoring.

Outreach and Events

Blueprint Labs and the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili) hosted the first MIT School Access and Quality Summit on November 13, 2018. This event was a unique opportunity for researchers and K-12 decision-makers to learn from one another. The event brought together 16 school districts, 24 research institutions, and 8 philanthropic organizations to review and discuss research and policy related to measuring school quality and improving access to high quality schools. The event featured a keynote by New York City Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza and included sessions by Blueprint Directors Parag Pathak and Joshua Angrist.

What’s next in 2019?

Blueprint Labs looks forward to continuing its ongoing studies on post-secondary scholarship programs, school quality measures, and innovations in school enrollment.

The organization will also continue to build and strengthen relationships with school districts in the coming year through events and outreach. Blueprint will launch a fellowship for school accountability and enrollment professionals in 2019.

You can catch some of the Blueprint team presenting at the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) conference in January! Here are the sessions and a link to the conference website with more information.

Allied Social Science Associations Conference

Blueprint Labs Presentation Schedule
January 4-6, 2019
Atlanta, GA

Blueprint Director, Joshua Angrist

Session: Breaking Ties: Regression Discontinuity Meets Market Design
Date: Friday, January 4
Time: 2:30-4:30 PM

Blueprint Co-Director, David Autor

Session #1: AEA Richard T. Ely Lecture on Work of the Past, Work of the Future
Date: Friday, January 4
Time: 4:45 – 6:00 PM

Session #2: Gentrification and the Amenity Value of Crime Reductions: Evidence from Rent Deregulation
Date: Sunday, January 6
Time: 10:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Blueprint Affiliated Researchers Camille Terrier and Matthew Ridley

Session: Fiscal and Education Spillovers from Charter Expansion
Date: Sunday, January 6
Time: 10:15-12:15 PM

Blueprint Affiliated Researchers Sarah Cohodes, Elizabeth Setren, and Christopher Walters

Session: Can Successful Schools Replicate? Scaling Up Boston’s Charter School Sector
Date: Sunday, January 6
Time: 10:15 AM -12:15 PM