Are Expectations Alone Enough? Estimating the Effect of a Mandatory College-Prep Curriculum in Michigan

74 Pages Posted: 3 May 2016

See all articles by Brian A. Jacob

Brian A. Jacob

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Susan M. Dynarski

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Education

Kenneth A. Frank

Bedford Institute of Oceanography

Barbara L. Schneider

Michigan State University - College of Education

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 12, 2016

Abstract

This paper examines the impacts of the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC), a statewide college-preparatory curriculum that applies to the high school graduating class of 2008 and later. We use a student, longitudinal database for all public school students in Michigan for the main analyses, and complement this with analyses from a state-year panel. The study employs several non-experimental approaches, including a comparative interrupted time series and a synthetic control method. Our analyses suggest that the higher expectations embodied in the MMC has had little impact on student outcomes. Looking at student performance on the ACT, the only clear evidence of a change in academic performance comes in science. Our best estimates indicate that ACT science scores improved by 0.2 points (or roughly 0.04 standard deviations) as a result of the MMC. Students who entered high school with the weakest academic preparation saw the largest improvement, gaining 0.35 points (0.15 standard deviations) on the ACT composite score and 0.73 points (0.22 standard deviations) on the ACT science score. Our estimates for high school completion are very sensitive to the sample and methodology used. Some analysis suggests a small negative impact on high school graduation for students who entered high school with the weakest academic preparation, but other analysis finds no such effect.

Keywords: college-preparatory curriculum, comparative interrupted time series, synthetic control

Suggested Citation

Jacob, Brian A. and Dynarski, Susan M. and Frank, Kenneth A. and Schneider, Barbara L., Are Expectations Alone Enough? Estimating the Effect of a Mandatory College-Prep Curriculum in Michigan (April 12, 2016). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 5848. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2774038

Brian A. Jacob

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Susan M. Dynarski (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

735 South State Street, Weill Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Education ( email )

610 East University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1259
United States

Kenneth A. Frank

Bedford Institute of Oceanography ( email )

Nova Scotia
Canada

Barbara L. Schneider

Michigan State University - College of Education ( email )

East Lansing, MI
United States

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