Your Lucky Day

April 30th, 2020
2023 Amber Roman Headshot(1)
Amber Roman
Director of Strategic Communications

May 4, 2020

As a proud new puppy parent, I was told to include any reading on dog training that I would recommend. Those are below.

Don’t worry, though, my kindle, iPad, laptop, other laptop, and phone still provide me with education policy reading. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve been reading:

Friends and former colleagues at the California Policy Lab have some analyses of initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims from the past few months. I include this because I think it’s really important to consider this data as we look to find the right lessons from previous recessions. Of the more recent UI claimants, something like 90% indicate they expect to return to work with their former employer. Whether these responses are driven by eternal-springing-hope or by credible promises from employers is (I think) an open question, but we should consider this in the context of how much we might expect enrollments to surge. (To be clear, I expect enrollments to surge, but this recession is going to be weird…and I think enrollment patterns will also be weird.)

On the topic of enrollment surging and lessons from prior recessions, some friends and former colleagues at the Community College Research Center (CCRC) put this post together. It is worth a read, though again, I think we need to be careful in how we apply those lessons.

Some folks I know put out this working paper discussing colleges’ decisions to close. They find that, by and large, college leaders’ decisions to close seemed independent of campus infrastructure like residence hall capacity, hospital affiliation, or medical degree offerings (i.e. schools with med schools didn’t act differently than those without). They do find, however, that state government orders were important, but so too (and here’s the FASCINATING PART) were the decisions of high-profile private universities. The sociologists call it mimetic isomorphism. The rest of us would say we’re all just tryna be Harvard.

Here are a few non-COVID-related pieces!

The folks at CCRC have a blog post out about IPEDS classifications. This is probably more relevant to data analysts who use IPEDS data, but if you are ever reading a study that uses IPEDS data, look to see whether the authors use the IPEDS classification for two-year vs four-year. IPEDS classifies institutions that grant bachelor’s degrees as four-year institutions. Now that more than a few community colleges are offering bachelor’s degrees, using the IPEDS definitions will lead to a substantial level of mischaracterization. Using the IPEDS definition, for example, would lead you to believe that enrollment among Latinx students at four-year institutions was reaching levels seen in public two-year colleges. Using Carnegie classifications or the list that CCRC has posted demonstrates that community colleges still enroll substantially more Latinx students.

The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration partnered with New America Economy to put out an analysis of how many undocumented students are pursuing higher education in the US. They estimate there are roughly 450,000 undocumented students in our various systems, representing about 2% of students. Of those, only about 214,000 are DACA eligible. California is home to the largest number of undocumented students, but undocumented students are a slightly higher share of the student population in Texas than they are in California. I have some things to say about the use of pie charts to compare populations, but force yourself past that and you’ll find some interesting information.

ThirdWay published a report on the potential unintended impact that Promise Grant/free community college programs might have on high-achieving middle-income students. The researchers interviewed students who could have attended a four-year institution, but who chose the community college route instead. A major factor was the lower cost of the free community college. Given that students who start at a four-year college are more likely to earn their four-year degree, programs that attract students away from four-year towards two-year colleges might not be operating optimally. As they say in the report, “For a middle-income student who is well-qualified to attend a four-year college, taking the community college pathway reduces their chance of earning a bachelor’s degree by 20 to 40 percentage points.”

Educational Researcher published a piece about how to interpret effect sizes in education research. Sometimes researchers have an easily interpretable and comparable piece of data, like the number of dollars people earned last year. Sometimes they have similar data, but data that can’t really be compared apples to apples. How do we evaluate two programs when one was evaluated using one test, and the other was evaluating using a different test? Essentially, we convert them to a common scale, but then must report the differences in “effect sizes”. This one is a good primer on how to interpret those, and includes important caveats – like correlation does not equal causation, even though we are talking about “effect sizes”…

On the puppy side of things, I highly recommend Training the Best Dog Ever. One of the co-authors trained Ted Kennedy’s dogs and the famous Bo Obama, though she has since passed away. It is all about using positive reinforcement, which definitely takes patience and commitment. I hope that it will help me help this dog find that puppy joy. Another one that I came upon is called On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals. I have never had a dog before, so I am less familiar with Lucky’s body language and what it means. It turns out that his yawns aren’t telling me he is sleepy when we’re out on a walk and another dog is approaching. Also, this one is for my co-worker, who thinks it’s hilarious that he still spends time wandering around the apartment dragging his leash. Lucky has already come a long way – he has started to ask me for belly rubs this morning! It might take me longer than the five weeks prescribed in the book, but I’m gonna have the best dog ever!

Lucky the dog
Vikash Reddy and puppy, Lucky

Happy reading!

Vikash Reddy

Vikash Reddy, Senior Director of Policy Research

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