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Essays on the Impacts of Education Policies /


This dissertation evaluates the impacts of education policies affecting students early in their educational careers. The first chapter studies the impacts of universally free school breakfast programs on student achievement. I study the staggered implementation of an in -classroom breakfast program in San Diego elementary schools, which provides meals to all students during class time, to determine the impacts of universally free school breakfasts on student attendance rates, classroom behavior and academic performance. Introducing universally free breakfasts increases math and reading test score gains by roughly 15 and 10 percent of a standard deviation on average, respectively. The results suggest that offering universally free breakfast increases participation-- perhaps by reducing associated social stigmas--and that the resulting positive impacts on academic achievement are at least partly driven by year round benefits rather than only consumption at the time of testing. Chapter two investigates the long-term effects of school entry age on student achievement and educational attainment. Using finely detailed longitudinal data on students in San Diego, I exploit the discontinuity in student ages resulting from school-entry cutoff dates to investigate the relationships between relative age, classroom environment, differentiated curricula and long-run educational outcomes. I find that achievement premiums from entering school relatively older persist well through the high school years. Older entrants are also more likely to enroll in four-year postsecondary institutions after high school, have higher levels of postsecondary persistence, but not higher levels of attainment. These differences can be partially explained by large and lasting differences in classroom behavior during elementary grades and access to higher level course placements beginning in grade eight. Finally, chapter three studies the impacts of high ability tracking on overall educational attainment for students just on the margin of inclusion in "gifted and talented" classrooms. Using a regression discontinuity design, I find GATE participation for these students increases rates of postsecondary degree attainment by roughly 8 percentage points. The results suggest that expanding high ability tracking programs to include students of slightly lower levels of ability may benefit overall educational attainment through more advanced curricula and higher quality peers

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