Making an Impact: Faculty Research Named Year's Best

Making an Impact: Faculty Research Named Year's Best

Kirabo JacksonKirabo Jackson's research asks "what makes a good schoolTwo papers coauthored by researchers at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) were named to the Edutopia’s10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021.”

The website, published by The George Lucas Educational Foundation, highlighted research by economist and SESP Dean David Figlio that helps dismantle longstanding myth about immigrant students. It also praised work by professor Kirabo Jackson and graduate student Sebastián Kiguel that reframed our notion of “good” schools.

Figlio’s study, published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at the idea that immigrant students are a drain on the education system. In fact, after analyzing more than 1.3 million academic and birth records for students in Florida, they found that the presence immigrant students actually has “a positive effect on the academic achievement of U.S.-born students,” raising test scores as the size of the immigrant school population increases. The benefits were especially powerful for low-income students.

Jackson’s research, also published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, provides a fuller picture of what a “good” school is because it goes beyond test scores, Edutopia said.

“The study looked at over 150,000 ninth-grade Chicago Public Schools students and found that emphasizing the social and emotional dimensions of learning—relationship-building, a sense of belonging, and resilience, for example—improves high school graduation and college matriculation rates for both high- and low-income students, beating out schools that focus primarily on improving test scores,” Edutopia wrote.

“Schools that promote socio-emotional development actually have a really big positive impact on kids,” Jackson told Edutopia. “And these impacts are particularly large for vulnerable student populations who don’t tend to do very well in the education system.”

Figlio is Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy. Jackson is Abraham Harris Professor of Education and Social Policy. Both economists are faculty fellows at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. 

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 12/22/21