top of page


Manuscripts Under Review

O'Hagan, K., Stiefel, L., & Schwartz, A.E.

Middle school transitions are increasingly required, despite documented negative effects on general education students (GENs). We explore if and how the move to middle school differentially affects students with disabilities (SWDs), a large and low-performing group of students. Using an instrumental variables strategy and NYC data on nine cohorts of students, we find the middle school transition causes a 0.29 standard deviation decline in SWD math performance, a 0.16 standard deviation decline in ELA performance, and a one percentage point increase in grade retention. However, after accounting for potential mediators (e.g. peer cohort stability) effects are similar for SWDs and GENs, suggesting the need to ease the middle school transition for all students.

EdWorkingPaper: 22-655


Does Special Education Work? Evidence from Large Administrative Data Sets

O'Hagan, K. & Stiefel, L.

Research increasingly seeks to answer the question: does special education work? This is different than asking if specific interventions have positive effects, and instead aims to identify system-wide impacts. We systematically review published quantitative research on the impact of receiving special education services on student outcomes using large administrative data, as well as review the methodology used in existing research to establish causal impacts. The qualitative takeaway from the 15 included studies is that special education had significant positive impacts on student outcomes, and the growth of students in special education typically matched or exceeded the growth of their general education peers. This counters a narrative of special education as ineffective, and signals researchers are producing results that can provide helpful insight to policymakers around special education. However, that relatively few studies met our inclusion criteria reflects the need for significant additional research.

Email for draft manuscript.


Stiefel, L., Fatima, S., Cimpian, J.R., & O'Hagan, K.

There has been an explosion of research on racial disproportionality in special education. Some recent research shifts the focus from the role of student characteristics alone to inquire whether school context moderates findings (e.g., is a Black student less likely than a White student to receive special education services as the proportion of a school’s Black students increases?). We significantly extend this emerging literature using eight years of elementary student-and school-level data from NYC public schools, examining more school contextual moderators, expanding racial categories, and distinguishing between cross-sectional and over-time differences. We find many more moderators than previous research has identified and these school context factors appear to be particularly salient for the classification of Black students.

EdWorkingPaper: 22-661


Staying Put: Positive Spillovers on Teacher Retention from a Middle School Science Initiative

Shiferaw, M., O'Hagan, K., Weinstein, M. 

Teacher shortages, especially in high-need subjects and schools, are a long-standing issue in many districts, and teacher attrition is a key driver. In this paper, we examine the association between a professional development-focused science initiative and middle school science teacher retention in the nation’s largest school district, NYC. We use detailed teacher-level administrative personnel data on 19 cohorts of teachers from NYC and Urban Advantage (UA) program participation data to estimate likelihood of attrition using a discrete-time hazard model. UA teachers are roughly 3.8 percentage points less likely than similarly situated non-UA teachers to leave their school the following year. This study contributes to the limited evidence on how professional development-focused programs can promote teacher retention in hard-to-staff subjects and schools.

SSRN Working Paper: 4542675


The Urban Advantage:  Comprehensive Science Professional Development and Student Achievement

Weinstein, M., Shiferaw, M., & O'Hagan, K. 


This study evaluates the impact of the Urban Advantage (UA) program on eighth grade science test scores. The UA program provides high-intensity teacher professional development and additional support services (e.g. field trips, materials, principal engagement). We contribute to the literature on science professional development interventions to improve student outcomes, using a standardized assessment to assess impact and seven years of student-, school- and teacher-level data. Our empirical strategy relies on matching to create a treatment and comparison group with similar observed characteristics. Results suggest, across all schools, performance in eighth grade science is not higher for students taught by a UA teacher compared to those without a UA teacher. However, comparing students within the same school, students with a UA teacher perform 0.02 standard deviations higher than students without a UA teacher. The magnitude of effects differs across subgroups; for instance, we find students with disabilities with a UA teacher are 1.5 pp more likely to meet eighth grade science proficiency standards compared to similar students in the same school. The analyses provide evidence that UA continues to be a successful intervention—though impacts may be smaller than previously estimated. In context with prior research on professional learning in science, the positive findings suggest districts with comparable access to informal science education institutions may want to implement similar programming.

SSRN Working Paper: 4542712


Working Papers

The Impact of New School Construction on Student Outcomes in New York City Amid Persistent Overcrowding

O'Hagan, K.


Staffing Interventions to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness: Evidence from New York City

O'Hagan, K., Mirakhur, Z. & Hill, K.


Inequities in Federal Funding for Homeless Students? Characteristics of School Districts Receiving McKinney-Vento Funding

O'Hagan, K.

bottom of page