CEPA Undergraduate Research Program 2012

The Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) is seeking undergraduate research assistants (RAs) to work directly with CEPA faculty on active research projects during the 2012 Winter, Spring, and Summer quarters. We are accepting applications until Friday, January 6 at 5:00 p.m. We will interview students the week of January 9th 2012. Once decisions have been made applicants will be notified and work will begin immediately.

Eligibility: The CEPA URP program is open to 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 will earn $14/hour. During academic quarters students will work up to 10 hours per week for 10 weeks and during the summer students will work up to 40 hours per week for 10 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 (see below for current research projects).

Specific Projects:

Project 1: Albuquerque Intervention
Faculty Mentor: Eric Bettinger
Project Description: In poor school districts, as many as 50 percent of low income students who had the intent to attend college as of the day they graduated end up not attending college in the following Fall. This phenomenon is called the “Summer Melt.” During the summer 2011, we worked with the Albuquerque Public Schools on an outreach initiative to stem this Summer Melt. The group conducting this intervention is seeking to expand to other sites. We need undergraduates who can provide support with the intervention team members and who can also help analyze and process the data that the participating districts.

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 RA will be a full participant during our team meetings. The RA will need to have STATA experience, will work 10 hours per week during academic quarters and full-time over the summer (ideally), and there will be the possibility for travel to the site with Professor Bettinger during the course of the project.

Project 2: Fiscal Federalism in College Financial Aid: How State and Federal Funding Interact
Faculty Mentor: Eric Bettinger
Project Description: A recent trend in several states is to cut spending on financial aid to college students when federal financial aid, such as the Pell grant, is increased. We are using historical data from state and federal financial aid programs to investigate this relationship between state and federal funding.

The student will be responsible for assembling and organizing datasets (Excel spreadsheets), and gathering data from academic, government, and news sources on state and federal policy. The student must be detail-oriented, have experience using Excel, and participate in weekly meetings with Professor Bettinger and his PhD RA.

The RA will learn how to efficiently use Excel for data organization and analysis. Depending on the students' preferences and capabilities, CEPA will offer them opportunities to learn more complexity about one of two areas. First, we may involve them in econometric analysis of data, teaching them how to run basic analyses on the data (in Excel or STATA, as appropriate), and describing some of the more advanced processes that will be involved in the project. Second, we may involve them in policy analysis, showing them how to look up laws in Westlaw and teaching them about the process of policy research.

Project 3: The Causes and Patterns of Racial/Ethnic, Socioeconomic, and Gender Achievement Gaps
Faculty Mentor: Sean Reardon
Project Description: This ongoing project started in 2011 and will continue through 2012. With 2011 support from VPUE, we have collected and compiled a comprehensive database of state test score data for all 50 states, for grades 3-8, for years 2001-2010 (and sometimes earlier), in multiple subjects (math, reading, and sometime science and history). These data are now ready to analyze.

These data provide a better source for examining trends and patterns in academic achievement gaps (by race/ethnicity, gender, English proficiency status, and family income) than other existing data, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Because NAEP only tests math and reading, is administered to only samples of students (roughly 2000 per state) in each state, is given only in grades 4 and 8, and is administered only every few years, the NAEP data are limited in many ways in their ability to illuminate trends, patterns, and causes of achievement gaps.

During the school year we will use these data to compute test score gaps by race, gender, and free/reduced-price lunch eligibility status and to investigate the patterns of these gaps and their relationship to state policies.

The RA will be responsible for assisting in remaining data collection, compilation, and documentation. This may involve contacting state departments of education, searching and downloading data from multiple websites, and/or writing automated “web-scraping” programs to systematically download data from websites when full data files are unavailable. He/she will also assist in generating state-level reports describing the trends in achievement gaps over time and across grades. Assist in collecting data on state education policies that may affect achievement gaps will also be part of the RA’s responsibility. The RA will participate in weekly meetings of the research team including Professor Reardon and several PhD research assistants. The RA will have the opportunity to learn to use STATA statistical software and to conduct basic descriptive statistical analyses.

Project 4: Principal Policy and Practice (P3)
Faculty Mentor: Michelle Reininger
Project Description: Relatively little is known about the policies and practices involved in hiring public school principals. Although an infrequent topic of empirical investigation, principal hiring represents an area of acute policy concern, given the long-argued importance of school leaders in successful policy implementation and in establishing school conditions that enable instructional improvement and consequent student learning. This project focuses on principal hiring in the Chicago Public School system that recently redesigned specific aspects of its principal eligibility and hiring processes. The RA on this project will work on an analysis focusing primarily on the passage of candidates through the eligibility and hiring pipeline. Specifically, it provides a portrait of candidates seeking entrance to the principal labor market (the ‘aspiring’ market), a portrait of those who achieve eligibility and ultimately employment (the ‘actual’ market), and identifies those factors which predict candidates’ successful transitions from applicants to eligible candidates to employed principals. By exploring candidates’ movement from aspiration to eligibility to employment, findings address the district’s mediating role in creating a labor market out of aspirant pool.

The data for this project come from a variety of sources including administrative and survey data. The RA will be responsible for assisting in cleaning, coding, and general descriptive analyses. This will involve working in excel and STATA. The RA will participate in weekly meetings with Professor Reininger and will have opportunities to learn to use STATA statistical software and to conduct basic descriptive statistical analyses.

Contact Information: If you have questions please contact Michelle Reininger, Executive Director of CEPA at reininger@stanford.edu or Caprie Davenport at capried@stanford.edu or 650-723-6255.