CEPA Undergraduate Research Program

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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: Evaluating the Effects of a Text Messaging Program

Faculty Mentor: Susanna Loeb
Project Description: Ready4K is a parenting intervention designed to help parents of preschoolers support their children’s school readiness in literacy, math, and social-emotional skills. Our research examines the short and long-term effects of the texting program on parental behavior and student outcomes in large urban school districts.

Parents are young children’s most powerful teachers. Unfortunately, socioeconomic status is strongly related to parents’ engagement with children’s school readiness and existing programs have done little to close this gap. One particularly promising innovation for supporting parents in this important area is texting. A number of studies in healthcare show that sending encouraging and action-orientated text messages can promote positive changes (e.g., weight loss, stopping smoking). Both healthy behaviors and parent engagement in school readiness require long-term effort and can be accomplished through small actions that build on existing routines.

To maximize the impact of texts, it is important that they come from a trusted source, such as a school. Therefore, we enroll parents as a part of preschools’ enrollment process. Once parents are enrolled, we randomly assign them to either receive the texts related to school readiness (the “treatment” group) or texts on another topic (the “control” group). At the end of the school year, we compare the reading, math, and social-emotional practices of parents in both groups, as well as the scores of their children on an early literacy, math, and social-emotional assessments. In our first study on literacy skills, compared to control group parents, parents who received the texts reported doing more at-home literacy activities and their children were ahead by two to three months of learning in some areas of literacy.

The RA will participate in team meetings that include Professor Loeb, CEPA doctoral students, and staff. The RA will contribute to the development of text messages and surveys. The RA will assist with data organization, preparation of surveys and assessment materials, and implementation of the program. The RA should be enthusiastic, energetic, highly organized, skilled in Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), and interested in both the implementation of a randomized experiment and using text messages as a tool in education. Fluency in Spanish or Mandarin or Cantonese is also an advantage.

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.

The RAs will be integrated into both of the ongoing research projects. The work will revolve around quantitative data collection and analysis. Data analysis will incorporate regression and propensity score matching techniques. Assistance with survey design will also be useful. We also are considering several additional experimental studies, and we expect the RA to contribute to future research design. The RA would participate in weekly meetings and phone calls with the intervention team. The student will meet with Professor Bettinger on a weekly basis both on these phone calls and in person. The undergraduate student and professor would jointly work on developing their work tasks for the week. Graduate students and Professor Bettinger would work with the undergraduate to make sure that they have the skills necessary to succeed on the task. The RA should be able to attend weekly meetings with one of the professors or graduate students leading the project, and should be willing to travel once to Texas for data collection.

The project focuses on helping students attend college, and undergraduates are particularly suited to give advice on the process of admissions and attendance. As such, the undergraduate will be a full participant during our team meetings.

Project 3: Studying the implementation and effect of the School Quality Improvement System

Faculty Mentor: Susanna Loeb
Project Description: Policy Analysis for California Education has recently begun a research partnership with the CORE Districts, a network of 9 of the largest California School Districts serving over a million students combined. In this first year of the partnership, the research team will be studying the implementation and effect of the School Quality Improvement System (SQIS), which introduced an innovative measurement system for accountability and a collaborative approach to school and district improvement. We are looking for one undergraduate RA to work on the qualitative study of how districts and schools are implementing the SQIS.

This work has the potential to be very impactful and highly visible. With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in December 2015, federal and state policymakers and district leaders themselves are looking to our research to support decisions about the structure of new systems in the 2016-17 school year. Because of the policy timeline, this project is time-insensitive. The RA will be involved with document review, literature review, and writing and will work closely with a team that includes undergraduates, graduate students and a faculty mentor. RAs will be required to attend bi-weekly team meetings and work a regular schedule of 8-10 hours/week.

Contact Information: If you have questions please contact Nadia Ahmed, Program Administrator at nahmed@stanford.edu.

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