CEPA Undergraduate Research Program 2014

CEPA Undergraduate Research Program 2014
Now accepting applications!

The Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) will be seeking undergraduate research assistants (RAs) to work directly with CEPA faculty on active research projects during the 2014 Winter, Spring, and Summer quarters. 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 will earn $15/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.

Specific Projects:

Project 1: Improving College Access for Low-Income and First Generation High School Students

Faculty Mentor: Eric Bettinger
Project Description: This project includes two college access experimental studies in Texas with the goal of improving college enrollment among low-income and first-generation high school students. One experiment randomly assigned students to receive extra college counseling from a recent college graduate working full time in the high school. In the other experiment, we randomly assigned high schools to receive a full time recent college graduate to work as a college counselor across the school. Experiments are ongoing and we are currently gathering survey and administrative outcome data.

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 RA should be able to attend weekly meetings with the professor or graduate students leading the project. The undergraduate student and professor would jointly work on developing their work tasks for the week. Graduate students and Professor Bettinger will work with the undergraduate to make sure they have the skills necessary to succeed.

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 2: Leadership and Reform in the Largest U.S. School Districts

Faculty Mentor: Tom Dee
Project Description: There are roughly 16,000 school districts in the U.S. However, nearly 11 million children - over 20 percent of all public-school enrollment - are served by just the 100 largest districts. This project focuses on examining the determinants and consequences of leadership changes in these large school districts.

The RA for this project will focus on gathering and organizing data on these districts including their enrollment, demographic and socioeconomic traits, revenue and spending traits, the superintendents and their participation in a prominent training program, histories of mayoral and state control. The RA will also focus on constructing a related literature review. The RA should expect to meet on a weekly basis with Professor Dee and a PhD student to discuss and facilitate progress. Facility with Excel and Stata is helpful.

Project 3: The Causes and Patterns of Racial/Ethnic, Socioeconomic, and Gender Achievement Gaps (ongoing project)

Faculty Mentor: Sean Reardon
Project Description: This ongoing project started in 2011 and will continue through 2014. 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 sometimes 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.

As this project continues 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. Additionally, we will begin to collect data on education policies at the state and district level that may alleviate or exacerbate these gaps.

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. Undergraduate RAs will have opportunities to learn to use STATA statistical software and to conduct basic descriptive statistical analyses.

Project 4: Evaluating the Effects of a Text Messaging Program

Faculty Mentor: Susanna Loeb
Project Description: This study is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a text messaging program designed to enhance the book-sharing practices of parents with their preschool-aged children. It will examine the effects of the “texting” program on parental behavior and student outcomes in a large urban school district during the 2013-14 school year.
Experimental evidence demonstrates that parent-child book sharing can positively impact preschoolers’ early literacy development. Unfortunately, there are substantial differences in book-sharing practices by socioeconomic status, and existing programs have done little close this gap. One particularly promising innovation for enhancing parents’ book-sharing practices is texting. A number of RCTs in healthcare show that sending encouraging and action-oriented text messages to individuals can promote positive behavior changes. Given the similarities between parent-child book sharing and other healthy behaviors (both can be accomplished through small actions that build on existing routines), the potential to positively impact parents’ behaviors through texts is high.

To maximize the impact of texts, it is important that they come from a trusted source, such as a school. Therefore, our partner school district and their trusted partners will conduct brief consultations with consenting parents during the summer. In these meetings, they will enroll parents in the program and gather background information. Once parents are enrolled, we will randomly assign them to either receive the texts related to book sharing (the “treatment” group) or texts on another topic (the “control” group). At the end of the school year, we will compare the reading practices of parents in both groups, as well as the scores of their children on an early literacy assessment.

The RA will participate in planning meetings that include Professor Susanna Loeb as well as CEPA doctoral students and staff. He or she also will participate in meetings with our partners (school district and partnering nonprofits). As a part of these meetings, the RA will contribute to the development of text messages. The RA also will assist with data collection (from the district’s central office and pre-k sites), data organization, and implementation of the program. The RA should be highly organized, skilled in Excel, and interested in both the implementation of a randomized experiment and using text messages as a tool in education.

Contact Information: If you have questions please contact Ieshia Edgerton, Program Administrator at or 650-723-6255.