Friday, March 22, 2019

School choice in Denver, 2019 report

Here's the latest report from Denver's unified school choice:
Record High Participation In District’s Round 1 of SchoolChoice
Mar. 21, 2019
DPS marks eighth year of providing equitable, transparent enrollment through unified system
Denver –Thousands of Denver families took an active role in selecting the best-fit school for their student during another successful SchoolChoice enrollment season. Denver Public Schools (DPS) this week sent out over 27,000 emails and text messages notifying families of their students’ school assignments for 2019-20. Round 2 of SchoolChoice opens on April 3.
The goal of SchoolChoice is to level the playing field by giving all DPS students access to a quality education, regardless of their address or socio-economic background. And SchoolChoice is succeeding. This year, SchoolChoice placed 92% of kindergarteners and 95% of sixth-graders in their first-, second- or third-choice school. Ninth-graders were placed in one of their top three choices 94% of the time. For all three grade levels, match rates for first or second choices were also strong: 89% percent for kindergarten; and 93% for sixth and ninth.
In a continuing effort to provide the best service to Denver families, DPS shifted the timing of the Choice window to close in mid-February, allowing the district to release results nearly a month earlier than in 2018. And the district opened a new walk-in enrollment center in the southwest area to better support families. The DPS SchoolChoice process allows families to rank their top school choices on a single online application. The district then runs a computer algorithm designed to maximize the number of students getting their most-preferred option, subject to availability. The system is based on the 2012-Nobel Prize-winning work of Stanford and Harvard professor Dr. Alvin Roth.
DPS is one of the only large districts in the country in which all its schools, whether traditional, innovation or charter, participate in its choice program. Prior to 2011-12, families had to complete different applications for different schools on different timelines. SchoolChoice is primarily for families with students who will be transitioning into a new school next year, including those entering kindergarten, middle school and high school. The process is also open to families who are not necessarily in a transition year but would like the opportunity to choose a new school for their student.
Because virtually every school is an option in this single enrollment process, DPS provides families with the tools they need to adequately research schools and make informed decisions. These tools include the annual Great Schools Enrollment Guides, School Finder online school search tool, the Great Schools Regional Expo series, and individual school tours.
SchoolChoice is not limited to the Round 1 window that closed Feb. 20. Round 2 of SchoolChoice begins April 3 and will provide opportunities for families who did not participate in Round 1, or who participated in Round 1 but want to re-explore their options or who are new to DPS.
SchoolChoice Data
SchoolChoice participation rates by transition grades:
Kindergarten – 89%
Sixth-grade – 84%
Ninth-grade – 76%
TOTAL – 84%
SchoolChoice Match rates:
Grade2019: 1stChoice2018: 1stChoiceChange2019: 1stor 2nd2018: 1stor 2ndChange2019: 1st-3rd2018: 1st-3rdChange

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Dr. Oscar Salvatierra, Jr. (1935 - 2019)

Here's the Stanford obituary of the pioneering kidney transplant surgeon:

Pioneering pediatric kidney transplant surgeon Oscar Salvatierra dies at 83
Oscar Salvatierra founded Stanford’s pediatric kidney transplant program, helped write the national legislation that regulates organ transplants, and conducted research in kidney transplantation.

"Oscar Salvatierra Jr., MD, professor emeritus of surgery and of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a leader in the effort to enact national legislation regulating organ donation, died March 16 at his home in Menlo Park, California.  He was 83.


"A pediatric kidney transplant surgeon, Salvatierra was the physician most involved in the development and passage of the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, the legislation that established a nationwide network to enable the fair and equitable allocation of donor organs to patients across the country.

"The law, on which Salvatierra collaborated with then-Congressman Al Gore, also banned buying and selling donor organs. It has served as a model for laws regulating organ transplantation around the world.
"Salvatierra developed methods that enabled small children to be successfully transplanted with adult-sized kidneys, making it possible for many children to receive kidneys donated by adult donors, including their relatives. He also pioneered an immune-suppression protocol for pediatric kidney transplant recipients that avoided steroid medications, which have harmful side effects in children, such as severe growth suppression."

School choice in Washington D.C., by Thomas Toch in the Washington Post magazine

In the Washington Post magazine, Thomas Toch writes about the accomplishments and limitations of the school choice system in Washington D.C., and school choice more generally. He's a thoughtful observer of the education scene, and the director of FutureEd. (I gather that the piece is only online now and will be in print on Saturday...)

The Lottery That’s Revolutionizing D.C. Schools
by Thomas Toch.  Photos by Evelyn Hockstein, MARCH 20, 2019

The whole thing is worth reading.  Here's the concluding paragraph:

"In forcing traditional public schools to compete more directly, the common enrollment system has pressed them to strengthen themselves, as Henderson suggests. It has made school choice fairer and more efficient. And it has changed the dynamic between Washington’s public and private schools. Families are finding public Montessori programs, dual-language opportunities like Noah’s and other options that were offered mainly in the private sector in the past. But the long wait lists at some schools and empty spots at others that the My School DC lottery has produced make clear that the success of school choice in Washington will ultimately require creating more strong schools. “If we don’t have capacity in A-plus schools for all the kids, then some kids aren’t going to go to A-plus schools,” Roth told me. “No system of choice can fix that.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Frequencies of medically assisted death, in jurisdictions where it is legal

From the Lancet:
Regulation of assisted suicide limits the number of assisted deaths
Gian Domenico Borasio, Ralf J Jox, Claudia Gamondi
Published:February 20, 2019

"Several countries and US states have recently legalised euthanasia, assisted suicide, or both, including Canada and California, USA. In 2017, more than 13 000 patients died through either method of assisted death in countries where these practices are permitted. Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal in the Netherlands and Belgium since 2002, whereas assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since 1918 and in Oregon, USA, since 1997.

"In assisted suicide, patients take the lethal drug themselves, whereas doctors administer the drug in euthanasia. In 2012, this appeared to be a main reason for the higher frequency of assisted deaths in the Netherlands and Belgium, compared with Oregon and Switzerland. Yet data from the past 5 years suggest that the lack of legislation in Switzerland could also explain the higher frequency of assisted suicide, particularly since an increasing number of patients without terminal illness obtain permission for assisted suicide in Switzerland. By contrast, the lower frequency in Oregon might be explained by the requirement of a maximum life expectancy of 6 months and by the requirement that patients obtain a lethal dose from the pharmacy for auto-administration. On average, 36% of these patients in Oregon end up not using the lethal drug and die of their illness"

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Matching civil servants to positions (and career tracks) in India

Stanford's Ashutosh Thakur writes about civil service matching in India:
Rethinking cadre allocation procedures in civil services

 "The allocation procedure of All-India Services’ officers to states is an important aspect of personnel administration in the public sector. This article shows that a change in allocation policy in 2008 resulted in lower quality officers being systematically assigned to disadvantaged states. It examines the causes of these imbalances and impact on State capacity and development outcomes, and explores alternate mechanisms."

Monday, March 18, 2019

Alan Krueger (1960-2019)

I was shaken today by the news of Alan Krueger's death:

Alan B. Krueger, Economic Aide to Clinton and Obama, Is Dead at 58

He was a leading light in the study of labor markets (from the effects of minimum wage, to the micro and macro returns of education).  He was also a leading policy architect, not least in his service as the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.  (I interacted with him briefly when he was in that role, on matters concerning transplantation policy.)

I'm reminded that many Americans of my generation encountered the poem Richard Corey as part of the elementary school curriculum.

Palgiarism detection, student data, and Ed Tech: the purchase of Turnitin

Here's a story that caught my eye in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, about the purchase of Turnitin, known so far primarily for plagiarism detection software:

Why a Plagiarism-Detection Company Is Now a Billion-Dollar Business

"Stamping out student plagiarism is big business. How big? $1.735 billion, to be exact. That’s the price that Advance, a privately held media, communications, and technology company, will pay to purchase Turnitin, the 800-pound gorilla of plagiarism-detection services.
"While its roots are in plagiarism detection, Turnitin actually has a broader portfolio. For example, it owns Gradescope, which offers AI-assisted grading tools, and Lightside Labs, which uses machine learning to provide feedback on students’ writing.

Chris Caren, chief executive of Turnitin, said the company’s next step is to become a platform for colleges and high schools to submit all types of student assignments, digital or on paper. It would then use AI to help instructors review that work to, among other things, spot at-risk students and devise remediation plans. The company is also developing Turnitin’s software to branch out into the STEM fields and detect plagiarism in coding, for example. In other words, it hopes to become a one-stop shop for all sorts of tech-driven teaching services."

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Congratulations to Ed Glaeser, Scott Kominers, Mike Luca and Nikhil Naik (EI best paper award)

Congratulations to the authors of this fine paper, published in Economic Inquiry.

2018 Best EI Article Award Announced!
LIMITATIONS OF IMPROVED MEASURES OF URBAN LIFE -- Volume 56, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages: 114-137
by Edward L. Glaeser, Scott Duke Kominers, Michael Luca, and Nikhil Naik

"New, “big data” sources allow measurement of city characteristics and outcome variables at higher collection frequencies and more granular geographic scales than ever before. However, big data will not solve large urban social science questions on its own. Big urban data has the most value for the study of cities when it allows measurement of the previously opaque, or when it can be coupled with exogenous shocks to people or place. We describe a number of new urban data sources and illustrate how they can be used to improve the study and function of cities. We first show how Google Street View images can be used to predict income in New York City, suggesting that similar imagery data can be used to map wealth and poverty in previously unmeasured areas of the developing world. We then discuss how survey techniques can be improved to better measure willingness to pay for urban amenities. Finally, we explain how Internet data is being used to improve the quality of city services."

The paper's publication history says something about publishing, on line versus in print, at least in Economics.

Publication History
  • 27 November 2017
  • 12 July 2016
  • 23 February 2016
  • 23 November 2015

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Matching refugees to host country locations

My political science colleagues at Stanford have been thinking fruitfully about how to match refugees to locations in the countries to which they have been granted asylum:

Matching Refugees to Host Country LocationsBased on Preferences and Outcomes
∗ Avidit Acharya† Kirk Bansak‡ Jens Hainmueller§ February 21, 2019

Abstract: Facilitating the integration of refugees has become a major policy challenge in many host countries in the context of the global displacement crisis. One of the first policy decisions host countries make in the resettlement process is the assignment of refugees to locations within the country. We develop a mechanism to match refugees to locations in a way that takes into account their expected integration outcomes and their preferences over where to be settled. Our proposal is based on a priority mechanism that allows the government first to specify a threshold g for the minimum level of expected integration success that should be achieved. Refugees are then matched to locations based on their preferences subject to meeting the government’s specified threshold. The mechanism is both strategy-proof and constrained efficient in that it always generates a matching that is not Pareto dominated by any other matching that respects the government’s threshold. We demonstrate our approach using simulations and a real-world application to refugee data from the United States.
Here's an earlier paper by a group including some of the same authors
 2018 Jan 19;359(6373):325-329. doi: 10.1126/science.aao4408.

Improving refugee integration through data-driven algorithmic assignment.


Developed democracies are settling an increased number of refugees, many of whom face challenges integrating into host societies. We developed a flexible data-driven algorithm that assigns refugees across resettlement locations to improve integration outcomes. The algorithm uses a combination of supervised machine learning and optimal matching to discover and leverage synergies between refugee characteristics and resettlement sites. The algorithm was tested on historical registry data from two countries with different assignment regimes and refugee populations, the United States and Switzerland. Our approach led to gains of roughly 40 to 70%, on average, in refugees' employment outcomes relative to current assignment practices. This approach can provide governments with a practical and cost-efficient policy tool that can be immediately implemented within existing institutional structures.