CEPA Undergraduate Research Program

We are no longer accepting applications

The Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) is seeking undergraduate research assistants (RAs) for Summer 2020 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 and work will begin in the summer.

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.

Financial Support: RAs can get up to $7500 for an immersive 10 week summer project. Individual projects may vary depending on faculty. You will be paid via stipend processed by Financial Aid 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: Field and Lab Data Collection Using Novel Tablet Computer Assessments of Social and Emotional Learning
Faculty Mentor: Jelena Obradović
Project Description: Social and emotional learning refers to non-academic skills that are crucial for children’s success in school. Dr. Jelena Obradović (https://web.stanford.edu/group/sparklab/) is using a novel tablet computer app to measure social and emotional learning in elementary school students (grades K-5). These games test student’s ability to delay gratification, think flexibly, remember information, control behavior, tolerate frustration, persevere, and challenge themselves. Measuring these skills is crucial because they are associated with physical and mental health, educational attainment, and career success. But existing table-top assessment tools are time consuming, require extensive training, and are difficult to administer consistently. The innovative tablet-based assessment provides an accessible, standardized, and low-cost alternative for educators and researchers, and can be used in a group setting to assess many children simultaneously. 

Dr. Obradović is seeking research assistants to assist with data collection using this app in both field and lab settings. We are currently collecting data in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula and our research team is using this app to collect data at after school programs, museums, libraries, and other community sites. This data collection will be supplemented with electrocardiogram (EKG) data to understand how children’s autonomic nervous system activity supports their social and emotional learning skills.

The research assistants will gain practical experience in lab-based research, and possibly in the field (e.g., community sites such as museums). They will learn about psychophysiology and social and emotional learning skills. The ideal candidate will be friendly, detail-oriented, and enjoy working with parents and children. Work hours may include weekends.

Project 2: Biological Bases of Self-Regulated Learning
Faculty Mentor: Jelena Obradović
Project Description: In this project, we are examining (1) how young children’s stress physiology is affected by the everyday challenges that occur in educational settings; and (2) whether children’s acute physiological responses are malleable in ways that can promote successful learning outcomes. The goal is to identify ways to help young children achieve and maintain well-regulated physiology and behavior despite acute learning-related challenges. 

Dr. Jelena Obradović (https://web.stanford.edu/group/sparklab/) is seeking a research assistant interested in the interplay of biology, behavior, and environment to assist with basic research that will lay the groundwork for experimental intervention studies that will improve children's emotional and physiological self-regulation skills. The research assistant will have the opportunity to work on multiple studies focused on the biological bases of self-regulated learning.

The research assistant will learn about the significance of autonomic nervous system functioning. S/he will assist in collecting behavioral and electrocardiogram (EKG) data in a laboratory setting, and possibly in the field (e.g., community sites such as museums). S/he will learn how to process and clean EKG data. The ideal candidate will have great organization skills and attention to detail, and will be friendly, outgoing, and enjoy working with parents and children. Work hours may include weekends.

Project 3: Data Cleaning and Analysis for Quantitative Research in Early Childhood Education
Faculty Mentor: Jelena Obradović
Project Description: In this project, we will examine how different aspects of preschool (Pre-K) classroom experience (e.g., emotional, instructional, organizational) uniquely relate to the growth of children’s academic, social, and emotional learning skills (SEL). We will investigate whether these associations vary by children’s ethnic background, language proficiency, or initial skill levels. We are answering research questions such as, which students are likely to benefit from a Pre-K program the most?

Dr. Jelena Obradović (https://web.stanford.edu/group/sparklab/) is seeking a research assistant who will work with the current data manager to assist with data cleaning, processing, and analysis. Her team is creating longitudinal panels of data that include children’s enrollment and attendance in early childhood education programs, measures of classroom and teacher quality, and measures of social and emotional learning skills across several cohorts of children. The measures need to be linked between teachers, classrooms, and students over time in order to answer the research questions.

The research assistant will gain practical experience in quantitative research and will learn about standardized early-childhood SEL assessments and early childhood development. The ideal candidate will be detail-oriented, communicative, and be available up to 8 hours per week. Knowledge of R is required. Work hours will be flexible and will be negotiated with other analysts who are working off of the same secure data server.

Project 4: Educational Opportunity Project
Faculty Mentor: sean reardon
Project Description: This project uses roughly 400 million test score records (from every student in grades 3-8 in the US from 2009-2018) to examine patterns of academic achievement and achievement gaps across the US. We will be augmenting the data, writing summaries of our research findings, preparing visualizations for presentations and publications, and describing patterns of educational outcomes and inequality. I am seeking RAs with interests in educational and social inequality and skills (and interest in developing skills) in one or more of the following areas: writing for non-technical audiences, data visualization, data scraping, data management (stata/excel), descriptive statistical analysis, 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 5: Documenting Educational Appropriations Made Through the US Department of the Interior
Faculty Mentor: Tom Dee 
Project Description: Federal education funding is primarily distributed through appropriations to the US Department of Education. However, some federal education funding is appropriated through the US Department of the Interior (DOI). In particular, the US DOI’s annual budget includes funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which provides educational support to Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools and public schools serving large numbers of American Indian/Alaska Native students. This project documents funding levels over time for federal educational appropriations distributed through the US DOI. It will also identify the timing when BIE schools transitioned in and out of grant/contract status. Such documentation will enable improved analysis of historical funding disparities for both K-12 and higher education. 
The research project is looking for a Research Assistant (RA) who will record when BIE schools transitioned in and out of grant/contract status and use historical documents to collect, organize and clean federal funding data. In addition, the RA will participate in internal project meetings. The ideal candidate is someone comfortable with Microsoft Excel, interested in issues of educational equity, and familiar with BIE schools and/or Johnson O’Malley funding.

Project 6: The Demographic Effects of Targeted Immigration Enforcement: Evidence from School Enrollment
Faculty Mentor: Tom Dee 
Project Description: The US Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division partners with other federal and local law enforcement agencies to police immigration status violations. ICE also pursues immigration arrests without the help of other law enforcement agencies through its National Fugitive Operations Program. This branch is responsible for the large majority of “Community Arrests” stemming from ICE raids. This research project aims to understand the demographic effects of these ICE raids by exploring their impact on school enrollment patterns. The research assistant (RA) for this project will help to collect, validate and assemble information and data on ICE raids that have occurred across the U.S. in recent years. This will involve researching existing data sources for this information, reviewing past news articles to validate ICE raid information and keeping an organized log of all findings. In addition, the RA will assist with data visualizations and take part in team meetings.