Eric Taylor and Ilana Umansky awarded NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

May 27, 2014

Congratulations to Eric Taylor and Ilana Umansky for receiving National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship 2014.

Eric Taylor

Eric ( is a doctoral student studying the economics of education at Stanford University. Eric’s research focuses on the personnel economics of the education sector. His recent publications include “The Effect of Evaluation on Teacher Performance” and “Information and Employee Evaluation: Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in Public Schools.” Prior to Stanford, Eric worked at the Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, and at the Los Angeles Education Partnership. Eric previously received an MPP from UCLA and a BS in Economics from Brigham Young University.

Eric's grant proposal is "New Technology and Teacher Performance":
The job of classroom teacher, like most occupations, has changed and will continue to change as new computer tools and software become available to enhance or replace labor. I study the effects of a labor-replacing computer technology on the productivity of classroom teachers. I examine teachers' own decisions about how to educate students in their classrooms, measure how those decisions change when a new technology is introduced, and estimate the net effect on the variation in teacher performance. Data for the study come from a series of field experiments in which teachers were given computer-aided instruction (CAI) software to use in their classrooms. Preliminary results suggest that, in math classes, CAI reduces the variance of teacher productivity, as measured by student test score growth. The change in productivity partly reflects changes in teachers' level of work effort and teachers' decisions about how to allocate class time. How computers affect teacher decisions and productivity is immediately relevant to both ongoing education policy debates about teaching quality and the day-to-day management of a large workforce.

Ilana Umansky

Ilana ( is a doctoral student, studies tracking, course placement, and access to academic content among Latino immigrant and English learner students. She is currently collaborating with school districts in San Francisco and Salem, OR as they work to improve educational opportunities for their Latino EL students. Her background is in educational equity and quality research in Nicaragua, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, and other countries in Latin America. She has a Masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is returning to academia after working with the World Bank, the Organization of American States, Research Triangle Institute, and Sesame Workshop.

Ilana's grant proposal is "Peeling Back the Label: Studies of Educational Opportunity Among Students Learning English":
This dissertation examines the educational opportunities and resulting outcomes of the fastest growing official subgroup of students in U.S. schools, students learning English. Using quantitative methodologies, longitudinal data from a large, urban school district in California, and drawing upon sociological theory on educational stratification, immigration, language, race and ethnicity, and labeling, the dissertation is comprised of three main analyses. The first analysis examines the reclassification patterns of Latino English learner students, identifying not only the median amount of time it takes to reclassify but, importantly, what proportion of students reclassify by the end of elementary, middle, and high school, and how these reclassification patterns differ based on students' linguistic instructional environment. The second analysis examines English learner students' course-taking both descriptively and quasi-experimentally. The third analysis turns to look at the long-term effects of classification as an English learner on achievement. In summary, this dissertation addresses an issue of urgency in education today: the highly inequitable outcomes of students learning English. The dissertation explores key aspects of the educational opportunities afforded to English learners, the causal outcomes of those opportunities, and, importantly, the malleable factors that can improve the opportunities and outcomes of students learning English.

The Dissertation Fellowship Program seeks to encourage a new generation of scholars from a wide range of disciplines and professional fields to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. These $25,000 fellowships support individuals whose dissertations show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.