CEPA Undergraduate Research Program

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. Once decisions have been made, applicants will be notified by their faculty mentor.

Eligibility: The CEPA URP program is only open to current Stanford University undergraduates. Students must be enrolled in undergraduate studies in the quarter when they apply for the grant and carry an undergraduate status throughout the period of their project. Selection of RAs will be based on the student’s expressed interest in the project and the fit between faculty needs and student skill sets. Experience working with quantitative data using STATA statistical software is preferred but not required.

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: The Educational Opportunity Project
Faculty Mentor: sean reardon

Project Description: The Educational Opportunity Project (EOP) is a research project using data to inform education policy and impact educational opportunity. The EOP houses the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA), a unique database with measures of student achievement, achievement gaps, and educational outcomes for 3-8th graders in nearly every public school in the United States. SEDA is the first 10-year archive of nationwide education test score data (now including over 430 million standardized test scores from 2009-2018) and is designed to provide scholars, policymakers, educators, and journalists with detailed information on patterns of educational opportunity.

Spring Part-time RA Job Description:

The RA will be assigned a research topic (related to the EOP’s work) to study over the course of their term. Past topics include: Native American student education in the U.S., the education system in Puerto Rico, broadband access, and student testing opt-out. The RA will prepare a formal write up of their findings and give a presentation on their work at an EOP research staff meeting at the end of the term. The RA may also work on a variety of other short-term research related tasks, including but not limited to conducting background research on other relevant topics, preparing briefs, cleaning data, updating databases, etc. Work for this position can be completed remotely, but if in-person work is permitted, the RA may be required to attend occasional in-person meetings. For questions regarding this position, please contact the EOP operations manager Thalia Ramirez at tceleste@stanford.edu.

Summer Full-time RA Job Description:

The RA will support the EOP’s work on a new research project with a state department of education. Responsibilities will include, but are not limited to, background research on relevant education topics and policies, data collection from public sources, preparation of research briefs, etc. The RA will work under the guidance of a graduate student RA, the EOP operations manager, and Professor Reardon. The RA may also work on a variety of other short-term research related tasks for other EOP projects. Work for this position can be completed remotely or in-person, but if in-person work is permitted, the RA may be required to attend in-person meetings and complete certain tasks on-campus. For questions regarding this position, please contact the EOP operations manager Thalia Ramirez at tceleste@stanford.edu.

Qualifications: Interest in education, education policy, and social and educational inequality is desirable. Strong ability to work independently, initiative, and attention to detail is an asset. Experience using quantitative data for research and/or familiarity using Stata is a plus but not necessary for this role.


Project 2: Connect.Ed: Bridging Schools and Communities through Big Data
Faculty Mentor: Francis Alvin Pearman
Project Description: Managing urban school districts is a complex process that involves attending to the diverse needs not only of students but also of communities themselves. Issues commonly thought of as broader social problems—things like food insecurity, homelessness, cyber-bulling, and limited access to healthcare—are increasingly showing up at the schoolhouse door, exacerbating historical challenges facing urban schools and limiting the quality of in-school learning environments. Moreover, these challenges have become vastly more difficult to anticipate in recent years due to rapid changes to urban communities, including increasing rates of gentrification, shifts in the service sector, rising immigration and demographic turnover, more deliberate and far-reaching social demonstrations and protests, changes to crime patterns, and new challenges associated with housing affordability. To operate successfully, district leaders are having to rapidly identify needs, tailor solutions, and deliver services and resources in equitable and efficient ways—ways that are just as responsive to the silent majority as they are to the vocal minority. However, at present, there are few reliable, systematic procedures in place for school districts to access real-time information about various aspects of their local communities. The goal of this project is to provide a broadly accessible, user-friendly online platform for urban school leaders and educational stakeholders that leverages the tools of big data science and Artificial Intelligence to aggregate and display a variety of information about local communities and connect this information to research insights on consequences for relevant educational issues. The ultimate aim of Connect.ed is to enable educational stakeholders to make more informed decisions about how best to deal with pressing issues and emergent challenges in their communities and to promote accountability with regard to these decisions. This project is looking to hire a Research Assistant who can help conduct mini literature reviews on relevant topics, including the educational impacts of exposure to local crime, poor environmental quality, job loss, food insecurity, homelessness, mental health, residential instability, among others. These mini literature reviews will be integrated into visual graphics on the platform. The Research Assistant can work remotely but will be expected to meet virtually once a month with the research team to discuss progress, questions, and insights arising from the reviews.


Project 3: Race and teacher well-being: Improving teacher retention and student outcomes
Faculty Mentor: Francis Alvin Pearman
Project Description: Racial disparities in student academic achievement and disciplinary outcomes in the United States are persistent and pervasive, and they continue to be a pressing civil rights issue in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). Toward addressing these disparities, this project focuses on the most important school-based factor in students’ academic achievement: teachers. What interferes with teachers’ effectiveness? One likely factor is compromised well-being. And yet, our current understanding of teacher well-being is woefully incomplete. First, studies of teacher well-being are based largely on research samples of White teachers. Relatedly, these studies rarely consider the roles of teacher race, student race, or school context in teacher well-being. Finally, exactly how teacher well-being is associated with student academic, socioemotional, and disciplinary outcomes is underexplored. In this project, we aim to examine the relationships between teacher well-being, teacher race, school context, and student academic, socioemotional, and disciplinary outcomes. To do this, we will use teacher surveys from the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) from 2017-2019, as well as SFUSD SEL surveys and achievement and disciplinary data from the corresponding school years. A long-term goal of this project is to help the district to better support and retain their teachers and, by extension, better serve the students of SFUSD. In service of this long-term goal, we will conduct a comprehensive literature review of past interventions and programs to improve teacher well-being, with a particular focus on the extent to which teacher race is considered in the intervention. This literature review will be the primary task for undergraduate research assistants hired for this project. In addition to compiling relevant research articles and reports, research assistants will produce an interpretable summary report of this literature to be shared with the district. This work can be done entirely remotely, if necessary. In combination with our analyses of past teacher well-being in SFUSD, this literature review report will equip us—in collaboration with the district—to design and implement a tailored well-being intervention for SFUSD teachers.


Project 4: Social and Emotional Learning in Preschool
Faculty Mentor: Jelena Obradović

Spring Job Description:

Project Description: We are evaluating San Francisco Unified School District’s (SFUSD) preschool social and emotional learning curriculum. As part of this study, we will be doing naturalistic observations of students’ emotions and behaviors in the classroom. Dr. Obradović (Lab website: https://sparklab.stanford.edu/) is seeking research assistants to conduct these assessments. Research assistants will learn about research-practice partnerships, will be trained to observe and reliably code students’ behaviors, and will process and manage the data they collect. There may also be opportunities to conduct one-on-one direct assessments of students’ social-emotional skills in the classroom. The ideal candidate will have an interest in early childhood education or developmental psychology, great organization and communication skills, and strong attention to detail. Research assistants must be available 1−2 days per week to work on weekdays from 9 AM to 12 PM in San Francisco preschools. COVID vaccination, a negative TB test, and a Live Scan fingerprint background check are required to work in schools. If in-person work is not possible due to COVID, research assistants will instead work remotely on processing and managing school administrative data for our research-practice partnership with SFUSD

Summer Job Description:

Project Description: We are doing a laboratory study to understand how families support the development of children’s stress physiology and learning. Dr. Obradović (Lab website: https://sparklab.stanford.edu/) is seeking research assistants to collect physiological and behavioral data with school-age children and their parents at Stanford and to participate in scoring, cleaning, and managing data from this study. Research assistants will learn about stress physiology and the biological bases of learning and will be trained in data collection and data cleaning protocols. There may also be opportunities to conduct one-on-one direct assessments of students’ social-emotional skills in San Francisco preschools. The ideal candidate will have an interest in human biology, education, or developmental psychology, great organization and communication skills, and strong attention to detail. Work hours will include evenings and weekends. COVID vaccination and weekly surveillance testing are required to work in our lab. If in-person work is not possible due to COVID, research assistants will instead work remotely to support data collection using online surveys and to conduct, transcribe, and qualitatively code phone interviews with parents.


Project 5: Impact of University Construction on Economic Activity
Faculty Mentor: Eric Bettinger
Project Description: From 1990-2010, there was a sustained growth in non-selective college enrollment and branch campus construction. We use satellite data to measure the growth in an area after branch campuses are built. The project codes satellite data into various indicators of economic growth including new building construction. The advantage of satellite data is that it also affords us the ability to look at economic growth within a county. The project focuses on Texas, but other states will be included.
RA Needs: We are looking for RAs who can help us analyze the data using Stata. We also need RAs who can help us search data and newspaper archives to identify the exact dates that a branch campus opens.