Developmental Stage

Publication Type

Results: Dee, Thomas

The My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Challenge developed by President Obama supports communities that promote civic initiatives designed to improve the educational and economic opportunities specifically for young men of color. In Oakland, California, the MBK educational initiative features the African American Male Achievement (AAMA) program. The AAMA focuses on regularly scheduled classes exclusively for Black, male students and taught by Black, male teachers who focus on social-emotional training, African-American history, culturally relevant pedagogy, and academic supports. In this study, we present quasi-experimental evidence on the dropout effects of the AAMA by leveraging its staggered scale-up across high schools in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). We find that AAMA availability led to a significant reduction in the number of Black males who dropped out as well as smaller reductions among Black females, particularly in 9th grade.

This research snapshot provides an overview of an MSN funded project by Thomas Dee and Emily Penner that analyzed the impact of the African American Male Achievement (AAMA) program in Oakland, California. The AAMA is the first program in the nation to embed a culturally-centered curriculum specifically targeted to black male students into the regular school day at the district level. The study used data from a 12-year period to assess the program's impact on high school persistence.

The snapshot shares key findings, insights, and future directions for the project.


For over a decade, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has formed partnerships allowing local police to enforce immigration law by identifying and arresting undocumented residents. Prior studies, using survey data with self-reported immigrant and citizenship status, provide mixed evidence on their demographic impact. This study presents new evidence based on Hispanic public school enrollment. We find local ICE partnerships reduce the number of Hispanic students by 10% within 2 years. We estimate partnerships enacted before 2012 displaced more than 300,000 Hispanic students. These effects are concentrated among elementary school students. We find no corresponding effects on the enrollment of non-Hispanic students and no evidence that ICE partnerships reduced pupil-teacher ratios or the percentage of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program.


Recommendations for the aggressive recruitment of minority teachers are based on hypothesized role-model effects for minority students as well as evidence of racial biases among non-minority teachers. However, prior empirical studies have found little or no association between exposure to an own-race teacher and student achievement. This paper presents new evidence on this question by examining the test score data from Tennessee's Project STAR class-size experiment, which randomly matched students and teachers within participating schools. Specification checks confirm that the racial pairings of students and teachers in this experiment were unrelated to other student traits. Models of student achievement indicate that assignment to an own-race teacher significantly increased the math and reading achievement of both black and white students.

An extensive theoretical and qualitative literature stresses the promise of instructional practices and content aligned with the cultural experiences of minority students. Ethnic studies courses provide a growing but controversial example of such “culturally relevant pedagogy.” However, the empirical evidence on the effectiveness of these courses is limited. In this study, we estimate the causal effects of an ethnic studies curriculum piloted in several San Francisco high schools. We rely on a “fuzzy” regression discontinuity design based on the fact that several schools assigned students with eighth-grade GPAs below a threshold to take the course in ninth grade. Our results indicate that assignment to this course increased ninth-grade student attendance by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points, and credits earned by 23. These surprisingly large effects are consistent with the hypothesis that the course reduced dropout rates and suggest that culturally relevant teaching, when implemented in a supportive, high-fidelity context, can provide effective support to at-risk students.

Achievement gaps may reflect the cognitive impairment thought to occur in evaluative settings (e.g., classrooms) where a stereotyped identity is salient (i.e., stereotype threat). This study presents an economic model of stereotype threat that reconciles prior evidence on how student effort and performance are influenced by this social-identity phenomenon. This study also presents empirical evidence from a framed field experiment in which students at a selective college were randomly assigned to a treatment that primed their awareness of a negatively stereotyped identity (i.e., student-athlete). This social-identity manipulation reduced the test-score performance of athletes relative to non-athletes by 12%. These negative performance effects were concentrated among male student-athletes who also responded to the social-identity manipulation by attempting to answer more questions.

The authors use nationally representative survey data and a research design that relies on contemporaneous within-student and within-teacher comparisons across two academic subjects to estimate how class size affects certain non-cognitive skills in middle school. Their results indicate that smaller eighth-grade classes are associated with improvements in several measures of school engagement, with effect sizes ranging from .05 to .09 and smaller effects persisting 2 years later. Patterns of selection on observed traits and falsification exercises suggest that these results accurately identify (or possibly understate) the causal effects of smaller classes. Given the estimated earnings impact of these non-cognitive skills, the implied internal rate of return from an eighth-grade class-size reduction is 4.6% overall, but 7.9% in urban schools.

A prominent class of explanations for the gender gaps in student outcomes focuses on the interactions between students and teachers. In this study, the researcher examines whether assignment to a same-gender teacher influences student achievement, teacher perceptions of student performance, and student engagement. This study’s identification strategy exploits a unique matched-pairs feature of a major longitudinal study, which provides contemporaneous data on student outcomes in two different subjects. Within-student comparisons indicate that assignment to a same-gender teacher significantly improves the achievement of both girls and boys as well as teacher perceptions of student performance and student engagement with the teacher’s subject.

This field-experimental study evaluates an intervention in which students complete a self-directed “self affirmation” exercise that encourages them to identify and reflect upon their core personal values. This within-classroom randomized trial was conducted among 2,500 7th and 8th graders from six Philadelphia-area middle schools during the 2008–09 and 2009–10 academic years. Although this study failed to replicate earlier findings indicating that the affirmation generated large increases in the academic performance of minority students, this treatment did lead to statistically significant improvements in the performance of the minority students in more supportive classroom environments. However, the treatment contrast also reduced the performance of female students in those settings.