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Joshua  Cowen - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Joshua Cowen

Associate Professor of Teacher Education | Michigan State University


Joshua Cowen's current research focuses on teacher quality, student and teacher mobility, program evaluation and education policy.






Dr. Josh Cowen - Associate Professor, Dept. of Educational Administration,  MSU USC Rossier Editorial Board Panel with Dr. Joshua Cowen



Joshua Cowen's current research focuses on teacher quality, student and teacher mobility, program evaluation and education policy. His work has been published in multiple scholarly journals and funded by a diverse array of philanthropies. He is currently co-Editor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and a member of the Editorial Board at Education Finance and Policy.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (4)

Educational Policy

K-12 Administration

Statistics, Psychometrics, and Research Design

Teacher Education, Learning, and Policy

Education (3)

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Ph.D., Political Science

University of Wisconsin-Madison: M.A., Political Science

University of Michigan: B.A., History

Affiliations (2)

  • Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
  • Education Finance and Policy

News (6)

Class sizes raise concerns for Mich. parents, districts, teachers

Detroit News  online


Joshua M. Cowen, an associate professor of education policy at Michigan State University, gathered data on class sizes at 518 Michigan school districts from the last one to five years as part of a larger study on collective bargaining agreements. Cowen said negotiated class sizes in those districts range from 18 to 35 students in grade 4 with maximums from 22 to 35 students.

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Public oversight improves test scores in voucher schools

MSU Today  


In a pioneering study, Joshua Cowen and colleagues found that voucher schools in Milwaukee saw a large jump in math and reading scores the year after a new law required them to release the results. During the four years before the law was enacted, math and reading scores declined or remained stagnant...

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In Senate hearing, DeVos shows ignorance of central debate over how to measure schools

Michigan Radio  


Joshua Cowen, associate professor at the Department of Education Administration at Michigan State University, joined Stateside to help us understand the exchange. First, he defined the terms. Proficiency, he said, “is a target that sets a minimum level of achievement, where all students are expected to meet a certain threshold, essentially, that defines them as, by definition, at proficiency in that particular subject.” Growth, on the other hand, “is basically customized for individual students based on what they scored before. So, what we’re doing is measuring distance from point A in the student’s academic career to point B.” Cowen said the growth vs. proficiency debate can “become particularly heated” within the education community...

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How will voucher-advocate Betsy DeVos affect US education?

MSU Today  


Cowen’s comments on DeVos: "My take: if she wants to follow the evidence for what works she should focus on charters, not vouchers, and push for more oversight of charters generally. But I do not believe she will."

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Plight of Michigan's homeless students deserves attention

MSU Today  online


Joshua Cowen says his analysis shines a spotlight on a vulnerable population of children that deserves more attention. “With all the emphasis on improving education for underserved kids, there is a particular experience of being homeless that is apart from other dimensions of poverty such as race and income,” said Cowen, associate professor of education policy in MSU’s College of Education. “When you control for all those things, homeless kids are still disadvantaged.”

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Study: Schools of choice don't improve test scores

Michigan Live  


The records of nearly 3 million Michigan public school students between 2005-06 and 2012-13 were analyzed in the study, conducted by MSU associate professor of education Joshua Cowen and graduate student Benjamin Creed. The study is the first to offer conclusive answers to how school of choice in Michigan affects learning...

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Journal Articles (5)

School vouchers and student attainment: Evidence from a state‐mandated study of Milwaukee's parental choice program

Policy Studies Journal

2013 In this article we examine educational attainment levels for students in Milwaukee's citywide voucher program and a comparable group of public school students. Using unique data collected as part of a state-mandated evaluation of the program, we consider high school graduation and enrollment in postsecondary institutions for students initially exposed to voucher schools and those in public schools at the same time.

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Who would stay, who would be dismissed? An empirical consideration of value-added teacher retention policies

Educational Researcher

2013 Several states have recently adopted or are pursuing policies that deny or revoke tenure from teachers who receive poor evaluation ratings over time based in part on quantitative measures of performance. Using data from the state of Florida, we estimate such value-added measures to consider the future effectiveness and number of teachers who would have been dismissed under different versions of these policies.

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Going public: Who leaves a large, longstanding, and widely available urban voucher program?

American Educational Research Journal

2012 This article contributes to research concerning the determinants of student mobility between public and private schools. The authors analyze a unique set of data collected as part of a new evaluation of Milwaukee's citywide voucher program. The authors find several important patterns. Students who switch from the private to the public sector were performing lower than their peers on standardized tests in the prior year.

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MPCP longitudinal educational growth study baseline report

Education Working Paper Archive

2008 Since the late 1800s, Maine and Vermont have provided school vouchers to students in certain rural areas that lacked a public school, originally allowing them to attend any public or private school of their choosing in the area at public expense. The Maine program was subsequently limited to public or non-sectarian private schools. There is no clear consensus in the school choice literature regarding whether or not Maine and Vermont's “town tuitioning” programs are actual voucher programs, though in concept and operation they ...

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School choice as a latent variable: Estimating the “complier average causal effect” of vouchers in Charlotte

Policy Studies Journal

2008 Randomized field trials of school voucher policy interventions face major statistical hurdles in the measurement of a voucher effect on student achievement. Selection bias undermines the benefits of randomization when the treatment, a random offer of a voucher, is declined by participants who systematically differ from those who accept. This article argues that the complier average causal effect (CACE) is the parameter of interest in voucher evaluations. As an example, the CACE is estimated using data from a small, one-year field trial of ...

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