Tag Archives: Esther Duflo

There is something you can do

Anybody who has tried to do much of anything around here has run into this phrase:

There’s nothing you can do.

I was reminded of that when I read this, from the Economist 12 May 2012, Hope springs a trap,

This hopelessness manifests itself in many ways. One is a sort of pathological conservatism, where people forgo even feasible things with potentially large benefits for fear of losing the little they already possess.

The article expands on that idea:

Development economists have long surmised that some very poor people may remain trapped in poverty because even the largest investments they are able to make, whether eating a few more calories or working a bit harder on their minuscule businesses, are too small to make a big difference. So getting out of poverty seems to require a quantum leap—vastly more food, a modern machine, or an employee to mind the shop. As a result, they often forgo even the small incremental investments of which they are capable: a bit more fertiliser, some more schooling or a small amount of saving.

It may seem that the article is about the poorest of people, but that “pathological conservatism” could as easily apply to the hopelessness many people seem to have about ever getting solar panels on their own roofs, or to attracting enough business to our area to employ our high school and college graduates, or that businesses will ever come to the south side.

Yet the point of the article is that field studies by MIT economist Esther Duflo show Continue reading

Tracking can help all distributions of students —new research

It turns out tracking students can help all students if done properly. CUEE’s invited speaker Terry Jenkins co-authored a paper back in 1997 about Detracking Troup County: Providing an Exemplary Curriculum for All Students. He appeared to be saying de-tracking was an advantge of school consolidation. Back then tracking was apparently considered a bad thing. Recent research shows that actually tracking students can help all levels of students. So yet another supposed reason or benefit of consolidation turns out not to be true.

Esther Duflo, Pascaline Dupas, and Michael Kremer wrote for American Economic Review, 101(5): 1739–74, DOI:10.1257/aer.101.5.1739, Peer Effects, Teacher Incentives, and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya

To the extent that students benefit from high-achieving peers, tracking will help strong students and hurt weak ones. However, all students may benefit if tracking allows teachers to better tailor their instruction level. Lower-achieving pupils are particularly likely to benefit from tracking when teachers have incentives to teach to the top of the distribution. We propose a simple model nesting these effects and test its implications in a randomized tracking experiment conducted with 121 primary schools in Kenya. While the direct effect of high-achieving peers is positive, tracking benefited lower-achieving pupils indirectly by allowing teachers to teach to their level. (JEL I21, J45, O15)
The first sentence is the standard “diversity” argument that CUEE keeps making. The authors state it so as to poing out that their study finds that it’s far from the whole story.

I find this part especially interesting: Continue reading