CEPA Undergraduate Research Program

We are currently accepting applications.

Apply here

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 and the interview process will begin immediately. Once decisions have been made, applicants will be notified and work will begin immediately.

Eligibility: The CEPA URP program is open to all Stanford University undergraduates. Selection of RAs will be based on the student’s expressed interest in education policy 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 will earn $16/hour. During academic quarters students will work up to 10 hours per week for 10 weeks and during the summer students will work up to 40 hours per week for 10 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: Evaluating the Effects of a Text Messaging Program

Faculty Mentor: Susanna Loeb
Project Description: This ongoing project started in 2014 and will continue through 2016. This study is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a text messaging program designed to enhance the book-sharing practices of parents with their preschool-aged children. It will examine the short and long-term effects of the “texting” program on parental behavior and student outcomes in a large urban school district implemented during the 2014-15 school year.

Experimental evidence demonstrates that parent-child book sharing can positively impact preschoolers’ early literacy development. Unfortunately, there are substantial differences in book-sharing practices by socioeconomic status, and existing programs have done little to close this gap. One particularly promising innovation for enhancing parents’ book-sharing practices is texting. A number of RCTs in healthcare show that sending encouraging and action-orientated text messages to individuals can promote positive changes. Given the similarities between parent-child book sharing and other healthy behaviors (both can be accomplished through small actions that build on existing routines), the potential to positively impact parents’ behaviors through texts is high.

To maximize the impact of texts, it is important that they come from a trusted source, such as a school. Therefore, our partner school district and their trusted partners will conduct brief consultations with consenting parents during the summer. In these meetings, they will enroll parents in the program and gather background information. Once parents are enrolled, we will randomly assign them to either receive the texts related to the book sharing (the “treatment” group) or texts on another topic (the “control” group). At the end of the school year, we will compare the reading practices of parents in both groups, as well as the scores of their children on an early literacy assessment.

The RA will participate in planning meetings that include Professor Loeb as well as CEPA doctoral students and staff. He or she also will participate in meetings with our partners (school district and partnering nonprofits). As a part of these meetings, the RA will contribute to the development of text messages. The RA also will assist with data collection (from the district’s central office and pre-k sites), data organization, and implementation of the program. The RA should be highly organized, skilled in Excel, and interested in both the implementation of a randomized experiment and using text messages as a tool in education.

Project 2: Field Experiments in Online Education Faculty Mentor

Faculty Mentor: Tom Dee
Project Description: This ongoing project started in 2014 and will continue through 2016. We are looking for one or two undergraduate RAs to work on two field experiments that examine policy relevant topics in online education. Both projects are time-insensitive and involve careful data collection and both projects have the potential to have important implications for online education. The RAs will be involved with project management, data collection and data coding and will work closely with a team that includes undergraduates, graduate students and a faculty mentor

The RAs for these projects need to have a basic knowledge of Excel and Word and pay serious attention to detail. RAs will be required to attend bi-weekly team meetings and work a regular schedule of 8-10 hours/week

Project 3: Patterns, Trends, and Causes of Academic Achievement Gaps

Faculty Mentor: sean reardon
Project Description: This project uses roughly 200 million test score records (from every student in grades 3-8 in the US from 2009-2012) to examine patterns of academic achievement and achievement gaps across the US. We will be adding more years of data to the project, analyzing trends, patterns, and causes of achievement gaps, and making maps and other web-based interactive data visualizations. I am seeking RAs with interests in educational and social inequality and skills (and interest in developing skills) in data scraping, data management (stata/excel), descriptive statistical analysis, data visualization, 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 4: Improving College Access for Low-Income and First Generation High School Students

Faculty Mentor: Eric Bettinger
Project Description: This ongoing project started in 2012 and will continue through 2016. This project includes two college access experimental studies in Texas with the goal of improving college enrollment among low-income and first-generation high school students. One experiment randomly assigned students to receive extra college counseling from a recent college graduate working full time in the high school. In the other experiment, we randomly assigned high schools to receive a full time recent college graduate to work as a college counselor across the school. Both experiments are ongoing, but we are currently gathering survey and administrative outcome data.

The RAs will be integrated into both of the ongoing research projects. The work will revolve around quantitative data collection and analysis. Data analysis will incorporate regression and propensity score matching techniques. Assistance with survey design will also be useful. We also are considering several additional experimental studies, and we expect the RA to contribute to future research design. The RA would participate in weekly meetings and phone calls with the intervention team. The student will meet with Professor Bettinger on a weekly basis both on these phone calls and in person. The undergraduate student and professor would jointly work on developing their work tasks for the week. Graduate students and Professor Bettinger would work with the undergraduate to make sure that they have the skills necessary to succeed on the task. The RA should be able to attend weekly meetings with one of the professors or graduate students leading the project, and should be willing to travel once to Texas for data collection.

The project focuses on helping students attend college, and undergraduates are particularly suited to give advice on the process of admissions and attendance. As such, the undergraduate will be a full participant during our team meetings.

Project 5: Studying the implementation and effect of the School Quality Improvement System

Faculty Mentor: Susanna Loeb
Project Description: Policy Analysis for California Education has recently begun a research partnership with the CORE Districts, a network of 9 of the largest California School Districts serving over a million students combined. In this first year of the partnership, the research team will be studying the implementation and effect of the School Quality Improvement System (SQIS), which introduced an innovative measurement system for accountability and a collaborative approach to school and district improvement. We are looking for one undergraduate RA to work on the qualitative study of how districts and schools are implementing the SQIS.

This work has the potential to be very impactful and highly visible. With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in December 2015, federal and state policymakers and district leaders themselves are looking to our research to support decisions about the structure of new systems in the 2016-17 school year. Because of the policy timeline, this project is time-insensitive. The RA will be involved with document review, literature review, and writing and will work closely with a team that includes undergraduates, graduate students and a faculty mentor. RAs will be required to attend bi-weekly team meetings and work a regular schedule of 8-10 hours/week.

Contact Information: If you have questions please contact Nadia Ahmed, Program Administrator at nahmed@stanford.edu.

Apply here