Education Policy Initiative Inaugural Newsletter
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Welcome to our Inaugural Edition!

The Education Policy Initiative engages with practitioners, policymakers and key legislative agencies to identify pertinent education policy questions, conduct rigorous research, and disseminate research findings. Our research seeks to improve educational outcomes at all stages – from preschool through adult education.

EPI has developed partnerships at the local, state, and national level to explore promising programs and policies. This inaugural edition of our newsletter highlights several of these projects.

You have received this newsletter because you are actively engaged in education research. We hope that the information provided herein will be helpful to your own efforts, and welcome your feedback.

Wishing you happy holidays from all at the Education Policy Initiative.

The Education Policy Initiative

National Attention on Student Loans

Virtual Schooling - Does it Work?

Improving Early Literacy in Michigan

Career Exploration at Community Colleges

EPI Awarded $3.1m in New Research Grants

Celebrating our Postdocs

The Education Policy Initiative

The Education Policy Initiative engages with practitioners, policymakers and key legislative agencies to identify pertinent education policy questions, conduct rigorous research, and disseminate findings. Co-Directors Susan Dynarski and Brian Jacob founded the initiative in 2012. Our research seeks to improve educational outcomes at all stages – from preschool through adult education. See our website to review our work.

Spotlight on Student Loans

Susan Dynarski, a nationally-recognized expert on student loan policy and removing financial barriers to higher education, is actively engaged in the student loan reauthorization process. Dynarski regularly consults with federal agencies and congressional staff and recently participated in the White House College Opportunity Day of Action and Roundtable on College Affordability.
Susan Dynarski attends June 5 2014 White House Roundtable on College Affordability with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden.

Photo credit: William Atkins / The George Washington University
Dynarski's prolific contribution to the reauthorization debate includes fresh perspectives and analysis in her New York Times Upshot column, a new paper An Economist's Perspective on Student Loans in the United States, and the policy brief Making Borrowing Work, which she presented at a Brookings Hamilton Project convening.

Her research has been widely cited – examples include in a Chronicle of Higher Ed article on the impact of student loans on long-term financial well-being, in a New York Times op-ed by senators Alexander and Bennet, in a Bloomberg article on easing credit standards for parental PLUS loans, and in numerous articles and blogs on "Pay it Forward" legislation.

EPI co-hosted, with the Upjohn Institute, a two-day Conference on Student Loans that gathered leading scholars, think tanks and federal agencies to consider policy alternatives in addressing financial access to higher education.
EPI co-directors Susan Dynarski and Brian Jacob with Roberto Rodriquez, special assistant to the president for education. Rodriquez presented the president's higher education agenda at EPI's Conference on Student Loans.

Virtual Schooling:
When (and for Whom) is it Effective?

Brian Jacob, co-director of the Education Policy Initiative, has partnered with the Florida Virtual Schools, Susanna Loeb (Stanford), the Miami-Dade County Public Schools and colleagues at the University of California-Davis to study the effectiveness of virtual schooling in Florida's Virtual Schools.

"Despite the popularity of virtual schools, there remains a stark lack of evidence that these methods improve educational opportunity," Jacob commented. "Our project will fill this gap by exploring how access to the online sector affects students' academic performance, as well as the effect of instructional and contextual factors on student learning and teacher effectiveness in virtual schools." The study is supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.

Improving K-5 literacy in Michigan

EPI has partnered with several Michigan-based organizations to evaluate two separate programs focused on improving early literacy in Michigan.

In collaboration with the charter school authorizer at Grand Valley State University, EPI researchers are studying a program known as Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (EBLI). In seven high-poverty schools, a randomly selected set of elementary teachers in grades 2-5 will receive EBLI training and curriculum materials. Student outcomes in these classes will be compared with the performance of students in comparison classrooms in the same schools.

EBLI founder Nora Chabazi commented, "Ever since I created EBLI I have dreamed of having research done and published by a reputable organization in order for the world to 'officially' know of the astounding gains that result from EBLI instruction."

In a related project, EPI researchers have partnered with the Hope Network to study a program known as the Michigan Education Corps (MEC). Funded by the Michigan Community Service Commission, MEC utilizes AmeriCorps members to deliver one-on-one literacy tutoring to elementary students. EPI is spearheading a random-assignment study of these tutoring programs in 16 high-poverty elementary schools throughout the state.

Dr. Holly Windram, executive director of the Hope Network MEC, stated, "We are grateful and excited about our partnership with EPI, and what we can learn about the impact of MEC for ensuring all children are reading at grade level by third grade or sooner."

The initial research projects are supported, in part, by seed funding from the University of Michigan and launches this fall in nearly 30 elementary schools in Michigan.

Community College: Career Exploration

EPI, MDRC and Macomb Community College have partnered on a Community College-to-Career project to improve student outcomes, shorten time to degree, and enhance student support services. EPI researchers are piloting two interventions at Macomb CC during the 2014-2015 school year:
  • An independent, web-based career exploration module that students will access remotely prior to meeting with a counselor to finalize career decisions.
  • An innovative career exploration course designed by the research team. They will utilize knowledge of the barriers and challenges to both students and instructors gained through focus groups and interviews with students, administrators, faculty and staff.

EPI Awarded $3.1m in New Grants

School Reform, Educational Inequality and NCLB Waivers — Brian Jacob, Tom Dee (Stanford) and Steven Hemelt (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former EPI postdoc), will study the effects of No Child Left Behind waivers on school reform and educational inequality with funding from the Spencer Foundation and William T. Grant Foundation.

Evaluating the Impact of Dual Credit Courses: Evidence from Tennessee — Susan Dynarski, Steven Hemelt (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former EPI postdoc) and Nathanial Schwartz (Tennessee Department of Education and recent UM PhD alum) recently launched a randomized controlled trial of a new Tennessee policy that allows students to earn college credits for advanced math courses taken in high school. Early results of the five-year, IES-funded study are expected in 2015.

Sorting out the Influence of School Infrastructure on Educational Outcomes — EPI affiliate researchers Kevin Stange and Isaac McFarlin, with Francisco Martorell (Rand Corporation), will study the linkages between physical school settings and educational outcomes. Data sources include a 1990-1991 census of all Texas public school facilities as well as longitudinal data at the student, district, and school level. This study is supported by the William T. Grant Foundation.

EPI's Postdoctoral Fellows

We thank our recent fellows Daniel Kreisman, Rachel Rosen and Joshua Hyman for their exceptional research and leadership and wish them well in their new positions. Rosen is now research associate in the K-12 Policy Division at MDRC in New York City. Kreisman is now assistant professor at the University of Georgia. Hyman (UM '13) is now assistant professor at the University of Connecticut. Congratulations to Joshua Hyman on his co-authored APPAM award-winning paper. We also welcome Thomas Barrios (Harvard '14) and Katherine Michelmore (Cornell '14) to EPI.
Thomas Barrios' current research interests include the economic impact of education, social and psychological interventions aimed at increasing human capital, and inference in social networks with many weak instruments.
Kathy Michelmore's current research interests focus on the interaction of public policies and family structure, family demography, and access to higher education.
Outgoing fellows train incoming postdocs Katherine Michelmore (Cornell '14) and Thomas Barrios (Harvard '14).

December 2014

New Resource

Using National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) data?

This working paper explores the promises and pitfalls of using NSC data to measure a variety of postsecondary outcomes, with tips and examples for researchers.

Public Events

October 23:
Future of Education in Detroit – a Panel Discussion

Educational leaders offered their perspective and analysis on the evolving education landscape in Detroit, including the growth of charter schools and the establishment of the Education Achievement Authority.

Panelists included Daniel Varner, Chief Executive Officer of Excellent Schools Detroit and a member of Michigan's State Board of Education, and Tom Willis, Chief Executive Officer of Cornerstone Charter Schools in Detroit. This event was live-streamed and can be viewed here. The panel, first in an EPI series on education in Detroit, sparked a great conversation with community members and practitioners.

The date of our second panel will be announced soon.
Mark your calendars!

January 14:
Janet Napolitano

The Ford School and EPI welcome Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California system and 3rd U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
March 12:
Michael Edward Duggan, Mayor of Detroit

The Ford School, EPI and the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy welcome Mike Duggan, the 75th Mayor of the City of Detroit.

Upcoming Causal Inference Seminars

Doctoral students organize over 40 multidisciplinary seminars a year for the Causal Inference in Education Research Seminars (CIERS) series.

The series provides a space for doctoral students and faculty across campus to discuss current research and receive feedback on works-in-progress, and regularly includes invited education research scholars.


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