CEPA Undergraduate Research Program

The Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) is seeking undergraduate research assistants (RAs) to work directly with CEPA faculty on active research projects supported by The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE). Applications will be reviewed as received and the interview process will begin immediately. Once decisions have been made, applicants will be notified and work will begin immediately.

Eligibility: The CEPA URP program is open to all Stanford University undergraduates. Selection of RAs will be based on the student’s expressed interest in education policy and the fit between faculty needs and student skill sets. Experience working with quantitative data using STATA statistical software is preferred but not required.

Financial Support: RAs can get up to $1500 for an academic quarter and/or $7000 for an immersive summer project depending on the guidelines set by your particular faculty and the number of hours you work. You will be paid via stipend processed by Financial Aid. For research done during the academic year (fall, winter spring), your stipend will be processed at the end of your research quarter, much the same way that grades are processed at the end of the quarter for students who are doing research for credit. For summer research, stipends are processed in May. The administrative process takes about 2-3 weeks.

Application Process: Students should provide a resume, an unofficial Stanford transcript, and a one-page cover letter describing the applicant’s interest in education policy, previous research experience including any experience with quantitative analyses, and indicate the particular research project/s the student is interested in working on.

Specific Projects:

Project 1: Field and Lab Testing of Novel Tablet Computer Assessments of Social and Emotional Learning in San Francisco

Applications due May 16 at 12:00 PM Pacific
Faculty Mentor: Jelena Obradović
Project Description: Social and emotional learning refers to non-academic skills that are crucial for children’s success in school. Dr. Jelena Obradović (https://web.stanford.edu/group/sparklab/) is designing a novel tablet computer app to measure social and emotional learning in elementary school students (grades K-5). These games will test students ability to delay gratification, think flexibly, remember information, control behavior, tolerate frustration, persevere, and challenge themselves. Measuring these skills is crucial because they are associated with physical and mental health, educational attainment, and career success. But existing table-top assessment tools are time consuming, require extensive training, and are difficult to administer consistently. The innovative tablet-based assessment will provide an accessible, standardized, and low cost alternative for educators and researchers, and can be used in a group setting to assess many children simultaneously.

Dr. Obradović is seeking a research assistant to assist with validating this app in both field and lab settings. Our research team will pilot this app at museums, libraries, summer camps, and other field sites in San Francisco. The data obtained from field testing will be used to calibrate the difficulty of the apps, improve the user interface, and identify programming errors so that the apps can be used confidently to collect data from thousands of students in large scale research and evaluation projects. We will also conduct more intensive lab-based studies at Stanford using the app to understand how children's autonomic nervous system activity supports their social and emotional learning skills.

The research assistant will gain practical experience in field and lab based research, and will learn about psychophysiology and social and emotional learning skills. The ideal candidate will be friendly, outgoing, and enjoy working with parents and children. Work hours will include weekends. Having a valid driver’s license and access to a car is desirable, but not required.

Project 2: Patterns, Trends, and Causes of Academic Achievement Gaps

Faculty Mentor: sean reardon
Project Description: This project uses roughly 300 million test score records (from every student in grades 3-8 in the US from 2009-2015) to examine patterns of academic achievement and achievement gaps across the US. We will be adding more years of data to the project, analyzing trends, patterns, and causes of achievement gaps, and making maps and other web-based interactive data visualizations. I am seeking RAs with interests in educational and social inequality and skills (and interest in developing skills) in data scraping, data management (stata/excel), descriptive statistical analysis, data visualization, and/or GIS mapping software. Depending on their interests and skills, RAs may be involved in the study of educational inequality through helping with data assembly, data analysis, and/or data visualization.

Project 3: Educational Leadership: Superintendent Hiring, Turnover, and Effectiveness

Faculty Mentor: Thomas Dee
Project Description: As the leaders of school districts, superintendents exercise substantial influence over district policies including spending, staffing, and curriculum decisions. Scarce research exists on superintendents despite their key management role. This project endeavors to inform our understanding of superintendent hiring, turnover, and effectiveness. We focus on leaders of large urban school districts as well as graduates of the Broad Superintendent Academy in exploring the circumstances leading to their hiring as well as exit. We also examine how superintendent characteristics affect district outcomes, from spending allocation to student test scores.