CEPA Undergraduate Research Program

We are no longer accepting applications.


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: Promoting Learning, Understanding Self-Regulation

Faculty Mentor: Jelena Obradović
Project Description: Being able to regulate attention and behavior is crucial for children’s success in school. Executive functions are higher-order cognitive skills involved in self-regulation. They include being able to inhibit behavior, think flexibly, and manipulate and update information in working memory. These skills play an important role in planning and pursuing goals. Children’s environments can have a strong effect on the development of their executive functions. Most previous studies have focused on how parenting and the quality of home environment are related to children’s self-regulation, and studies of classroom context have been neglected. In their study known as Promoting Learning, Understanding Self-Regulation (PLUS), Dr. Jelena Obradović and her students are investigating how aspects of elementary school classrooms contribute to changes in children’s executive functions across a school year and how children’s executive functions contribute to social and emotional learning and academic achievement. Further, the PLUS study is extending research on children’s differential susceptibility to family context, by examining why some children are more biologically sensitive to the quality of classroom experiences. Dr. Obradović is seeking a research assistant interested in the interplay of biology, behavior, and environment to assist with the scoring and processing of children’s movement and skin conductance, a measure of sympathetic nervous system activation that serves as a marker of biological sensitivity to context. The RA will participate in team meetings that involve discussions of ongoing analyses of data and preparation of manuscripts. The RA should have great organization skills and attention to detail.

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: Evaluating the Effects of a Text Messaging Program

Faculty Mentor: Susanna Loeb
Project Description: TIPS by TEXT 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.

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