Stanford graduate students win dissertation fellowships

Cristina Lash--00085-Edit Final Edit
Cristina Lash (Image credit: Marc Franklin)

Two Stanford graduate students have won fellowships from the National Academy of Education (NAEd) and the Spencer Foundation for dissertation proposals that focus, respectively, on immigrant students in U.S. schools and on teacher compensation.

CRISTINA LASH, a doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Education, will study and write about how the education system’s role of Americanizing students has changed with the latest immigration trends. BARBARA BIASI, who is pursuing a PhD in economics, will examine how merit pay can affect the quality of the teaching work force.

The two are among 35 fellows chosen from a field of 400 applicants as part of the NAEd’s ongoing effort to prepare the next generation of education researchers. Through the grants, it seeks to “encourage outstanding new scholars from many disciplines to bring their insights to bear on issues related to education.”

The fellowship typically includes a $27,500 award and opportunities for students to attend scholarly events and to present their work, as part of the NAEd/Spencer commitment to build a community of education researchers.

Teacher compensation

Barbara Biasi

Biasi’s research takes advantage of a new law in Wisconsin that eliminated collective bargaining for teachers’ pay schedules. To understand how rewarding higher-quality teachers with better salaries could affect a district’s work force, she created a model of the teacher labor market to compare two scenarios. Using data that’s available because of the Wisconsin experience, she considers how teachers respond to job offers from districts that have performance pay regimes versus those that are on a more traditional salary schedule.

“I show that an increase in merit pay in one district is associated with an inflow of high-quality teachers and an outflow of low-quality teachers, which leads to an improvement in the overall quality of the workforce,” writes Biasi, whose  graduate adviser is economics Professor CAROLINE HOXBY.

Biasi is a graduate of Università Bocconi in Milan, where she earned a B.Sc. in business administration and a M.Sc. in economic and social sciences.

Immigration and assimilation

Lash’s project examines how rising diversity in the United States has led schools to change how they teach students American identity in the 21st century. “[L]ittle research has explored how schools — as institutions of Americanization — have adapted their curricula, structures and classroom relations to accommodate these demographic and cultural shifts,” she wrote. “My dissertation explores how schools teach what it means to be American in the current context of immigration-driven diversity.”

Lash plans to do a comparative ethnography of two middle schools in different cities and with markedly different levels of immigration. She  also recently received Stanford’s Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence (DARE) Doctoral Fellowship. Because of this award, Lash has waived the funding from the NAEd/Spencer award but will participate in all of the fellowship’s other activities.

Lash’s dissertation advisers are Professor of Education GUADALUPE VALDÉS and Associate Professor of Sociology TOMÁS JIMÉNEZ. During the first five years of her doctoral program, she was advised by  PRUDENCE CARTER, who recently left Stanford to become dean of UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Education. Carter continues to serve on Lash’s dissertation reading committee.

Lash received a BA in comparative literature from Stanford and an MA in social and cultural studies in education from UC-Berkeley.