W. Jesse Wood is an applied microeconomist and APPAM 2021 Equity and Inclusion Fellow. His research interests include the economics of education, policy analysis, applied econometrics, public economics, and labor economics. His job-market paper studies the effect of student-teacher race matching on non-cognitive outcomes, i.e. going beyond test scores. He finds that students of color—when matched to a teacher of the same race—earn higher GPA, show greater effort and cooperation, and have fewer absences and suspensions.
Jesse has experience working on interdisciplinary teams through the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (https://epicedpolicy.org), where he has studied the causal links between student achievement and new school openings, school choice and mobility, and various measures of teacher quality. Prior to starting his graduate studies, Jesse led a team of engineers to quickly design airfields, roads, and tank trails for U.S. Army bases, and to present the resulting plans to high-ranking military officers for their approval. Thus, he has experience working in a high-stakes, team-based environment under a time constraint and clearly communicating the results of his work to key decision makers.
Here is a link to his CV.
PhD in Economics, Expected 2022
Dual Major with Economics of Education
Michigan State University
MA in Economics, 2016
University of Texas - Austin
BS in Applied Mathematics, 2015
Minor in Business
I provide evidence that diversifying the labor supply of teachers to better reflect the racial distribution of students increases learning and behavioral outcomes for students of color without diminishing outcomes for white students. I use administrative data spanning from 2007 to 2017 within the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of the most racially diverse school districts in the country, to measure the effect of student-teacher race matching on various noncognitive outcomes. I mitigate the concern that race matches are endogenous by including school-grade and student fixed effects into a linear regression model. This setting accounts for any potential sorting that occurs across schools with regards to the racial distribution of teachers as well as any unobserved time invariant student characteristics that may be correlated with race matching. Following a similar method from Jackson (2018), I generate a behavior (using suspensions, absences, and grade retention) and a learning skills (using GPA, marks for work habits, and marks for cooperation) index for each student and find that race matched students in grades 6 through 12 are expected to increase in their behavioral index by 0.041 standard deviations and increases in their learning skills index by 0.011 standard deviations. My findings indicate that students of color also experience increases in the individual components of GPA, work habits, and cooperation and see decreases in absenteeism when matched with a teacher of the same race. I do not find statistically significant effects on any of these outcomes for White students. Because noncognitive outcomes lead to higher high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and wages (Heckman et al.,2013; Heckman et al., 2012; Jackson, 2018), such effects could lead to a tightening in the achievement and wage gap found between students of color and white students. This result can be achieved with an increase in institutional efforts to ensure teacher populations more closely reflect that of their students.
While most students with disabilities (SWDs) receive instruction from general education teachers, little empirical work has investigated whether these students have suitable access to high-quality teachers. We explore the differences in teacher quality experienced by SWDs and students without disabilities (non-SWDs) in the Los Angeles Unified School District, examining how access varies within schools as well as across school-level disadvantage rates. We leverage several different indicators of teacher effectiveness for general education teachers who instruct both SWDs and non-SWDs. We find that SWDs are significantly more likely to have teachers with lower math value-added (-0.024 standard deviations) than their non-SWD peers and we find emerging gaps in teacher evaluation scores and exposure to novice teachers. In general, these gaps do not vary by school-level disadvantage.
This paper estimates the timing of identifying students with disabilities when students are race matched to their teachers. Early identification is vital for students that need additional resources to ensure a proper education. Delaying proper education for even a year may have drastic consequences on the trajectory of a student’s future. I utilize a Cox proportional hazard model to estimate the timing of identifying students with disabilities based on whether the student is race matched to their teacher or not.
Proponents of school choice argue that deregulating public education would allow for new firms to enter the market, generating competitive pressure on existing schools to increase educational quality. Although there exists a large school choice literature evaluating whether competitive pressure, created by more schooling options, leads to achievement gains, little attention has been paid to the direct effect of introducing new schools to the marketplace on student outcomes. This study provides some of the first evidence concerning the effects of school openings in a deregulated market. Specifically, we study school openings in Michigan where students can participate in interdistrict, intradistrict, and charter school choice. Furthermore, no caps exist for the number of charter schools or the number of students who can attend a school outside of their resident district, and universities and colleges can authorize charter schools anywhere in the state. In fact, there have been over 500 school openings in the past decade, a third of which have been charter schools. Thus, this setting provides the ideal situation to evaluate whether market induced changes in the supply of schools increase achievement. In accordance with prior literature concerning newly built schools, our preliminary results suggest that students who attend newly opened schools experience a decrease in achievement in the first year the school is open with increases in test scores in future years. These results may imply that new schools, whether or not they are located in new buildings, may need extra support in the first year from their district or management organization in order to offset the initial negative effects of school openings.
This paper estimates the impact of race matched faculty (i.e., any teacher outside of a particular student’s classroom) on student test scores. Using administrative panel data between school years 2008-09 through 2017-18 from Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), I estimate that Latino students see positive impacts of race matched faculty. By basing this study in LAUSD, which has a large proportion of Latino students and teachers, I can fill a gap within the literature by examining the effects of race match and faculty race match on Latino students. My findings indicate that matching Latino students to racially congruent teachers and faculty can improve math test scores by 0.020 standard deviations and ELA test score by 0.008 standard deviations. Increasing the supply of Latino teachers may provide as a crucial catalyst in decreasing the achievement gaps found between Latino and white students.
Students with disabilities make up approximately 14% of the K-12 student population, and over 60 percent of these students spend 80% or more of their time in school in the general education classroom setting. While the intention behind mainstreaming is to enable students with disabilities (SWDs) to learn in the least restrictive environment, it is nonetheless important to understand the quality of education they receive in these environments. In particular, general education teachers (GETs) typically enter the field with limited preparation to work with students with disabilities. Only seven states require all teachers to complete coursework for working with SWDs, and only two require clinical experiences working with these students. Thus, general education teachers are likely to receive minimal coverage of special education teaching methods in their coursework and have few practice opportunities focused on SWDs. To test the relative effectiveness of GETs with SWDs, we leverage Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) administrative data from SY 2007-2008 through SY 2017-2018 and disaggregate overall measures of teacher effectiveness into measures focusing specifically on SWDs and non-SWDs. Specifically, we generate two different sets of value-added measures (VAMs) for each teacher (n = 6,200): a SWD VAM and a non-SWD VAM. We find that a sizeable amount of the top performing teachers for non-SWDs are not necessarily the most effective teachers for SWDs (as measured by VAMs). This result holds across both math and ELA courses. Students with disabilities also have a higher (lower) probability of being taught by teachers within the lowest (highest) quintile of SWD and non-SWD VAMs within schools. These preliminary results suggest that teachers may need additional training to become successful helping SWDs to learn. Moreover, these findings raise concerns about the equitable distribution of high-quality teachers to students with disabilities, suggesting that school and district leaders may need to proactively consider the placement of SWDs with teachers who are more adept at teaching this critical population of students.