Education Economics

Noncognitive Skills and the Gender Disparities in Test Scores and Teacher Assessments: Evidence from Primary School (with Chris Cornwell and David Mustard)

The Journal of Human Resources, 2013, 48(1): pp. 238-266 doi: 10.3368/jhr.48.1.236

Using data from the 1998-99 ECLS-K cohort, we show that the grades awarded by teachers are not aligned with test scores. Girls in every racial category outperform boys on reading tests, while boys score at least as well as girls on math and science tests as girls. However, boys in all racial categories across all subject areas are not represented in the grade distributions where their test scores would predict. Boys who perform equally as well as girls on reading, math, and science tests are graded less favorably by their teachers, but this less favorable treatment essentially vanishes when noncognitive skills are taken into account. For some specifications there is evidence of a grade "bonus" for boys with test scores and behavior like their girl counterparts.

The New SAT and Academic Performance at a Public Flagship University (with Chris Cornwell and David Mustard)

Chapter 8 in SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional College Admissions, ed. Joseph Soares


Excerpt: The SAT and ACT are now fixtures in the college admissions landscape. They play a powerful role in quantifying academic merit. Complicating their use is the fact that scoring well on the SAT and ACT is strongly positively correlated with socioeconomic status. The growth in SAT and ACT prep courses both testify to the importance of the tests and reinforce the role of socioeconomic status in producing good scores. It was in this context that the College Board, in response to the University of California's criticisms, introduced the New SAT, adding a new Writing section (SATW) and a host of changes to the traditional Math (SATM) and Verbal (SATV) sections.

The interesting empirical question for admissions offices is not so much what the SAT measures, but whether it aids in predicting college performance. [...] Perhaps surprisingly, we find that, at the margin, SATV and SATM add little to the prediction of first-year college GPA and earned hours. SATW scores contribute to the prediction of the performance of whites, but for blacks none of the tests are shown to matter. What does matter for everyone is high school GPA and, to a lesser degree, AP credits. Prediction is also significantly enhanced by controlling for where a student attended high school, especially for blacks. The importance of the high school attended is potentially troubling, because blacks in Georgia are overrepresented in districts with lower average school quality. [...]