The movement to hold schools "accountable," and debates about alternative schooling options, governance arrangements, and other educational reform efforts are all based on the assumption that school quality strongly influences its students’ educational outcomes. There is also a strong theoretical basis and some empirical support for expecting that a student’s neighborhood will influence his or her academic achievement. Joshua Cowen and Deven Carlson point out, however, that most research has focused on estimating either school or neighborhood conditions, with few studies attempting to account for these effects simultaneously. This is often due to the methodological difficulties in disentangling and isolating these effects.
In order to address these shortcomings, Cowen and Carlson will draw from a unique data source that allows them to jointly estimate school and neighborhood effects on student achievement. Using administrative data, they will analyze how schools and neighborhoods contribute to student learning, given different student characteristics, such as age, race and class. They will also look at how differences in school and neighborhood effects contribute to racial and economic achievement gaps.