Ph.D. Candidate John Singleton Awarded National Academy of Education Dissertation Fellowship

Thursday, July 7, 2016

07 July 2016 9:45AM

Doctoral candidate John Singleton has been chosen as a 2016 National Academy of Education (NAEd) Spencer Dissertation Fellow. He will receive a $27,500 stipend to support the completion of his dissertation. 

This program is highly selective; this year Singleton is one of 35 fellows chosen from nearly 400 applicants representing more than 100 graduate institutions.

According to NAEd President Michael Feuer, “The dissertation fellowship provides financial support and mentoring to help outstanding doctoral students launch their careers as education researchers. These fellows represent our best investment in the future of education scholarship.”

Singleton first developed an interest in educational issues when he was in high school. His commute from the Denver, Colo. suburbs to the small, private high school downtown he attended took up to an hour every day, and that school choice motivated him to think about the political economic aspects of education. 

“What I find exciting about the economics of education as a field is the general openness to new questions and ideas that is combined with close connections to policy development. There’s a strong sense that good empirical work can have a real-world impact,” he said.

Singleton’s dissertation, “The Supply-Side of School Choice: Costs and Competition in the Charter Sector,” asks how charter schools respond to incentives. 

The answer, he said, is important for two reasons: “First, charter schools’ current incentive structure may not actually lead them to compete for students, as school choice policies intend, but rather to target less costly-to-educate student populations. The evidence I’ve gathered from Florida, where the distribution of students served by charters has shifted away from underserved students over time, suggests this is occurring. Second, policy may have a corrective role to play. With little exception, charter schools’ revenues are essentially fixed on a per-pupil basis by statutory formulas that are insensitive to the costs of educating different student populations. Tweaking this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach might generate more equitable outcomes with little costs to efficiency.”

Singleton already has the framework for this project in place, which includes a unique dataset that allows him to estimate “costliness to educate” and an empirical model that simulates and compares “the aggregate effects of counterfactual funding policies, such as increased support for charters and cost-adjusted funding formulas.”

He will have the opportunity to share his work with other NAEd fellows and senior scholars at professional development activities organized by the academy in the coming year.