MPES Welcomes Elira Kuka

“Do Human Capital Decisions Respond to the Returns to Education? Evidence from DACA”

Elira Kuka
Assistant Professor of Economics
Southern Methodist University

Wednesday, March 14, 2018
 1:00 – 2:00PM
Annenberg G02

Elira Kuka is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Southern Methodist University, as well as a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and a Research Affiliate at IZA – Institute of Labor Economics. Prior to joining SMU in 2015, she received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Davis.

Elira’s research interests are centered around understanding how government policies affect individual behavior and family wellbeing, to what extent they provide social insurance, and how effectively they alleviate poverty and inequality. Specifically, her current work focuses on analyzing: i) the potential benefits of U.S. safety net programs, which include Unemployment Insurance (UI), Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI); ii) policies that affect academic achievement and reduce socioeconomics gaps; and iii) the protective power of the U.S. safety net during recessions.

MPES Colloquium Talk with Marshall Jean 1/12

“On the Move: Assessing the Immediate Impacts of School and Residential Mobility on Student Achievement”

Marshall Jean
IPR Postdoctoral Fellow

Friday, Jan. 12, 2018
 12:00 – 1:00PM
Annenberg G02

Marshall Jean joined IPR in the summer of 2016 after receiving his PhD in Sociology and Certificate of Education Sciences from the University of Chicago. A native of Louisiana, he has taught in a public high school in France as well as undergraduate and graduate courses on education policy and statistics. He specializes in large-scale quantitative analysis. His recent research includes the study of how student mobility affects learning growth rates, the use of surveys of student perceptions in evaluating classroom environments, the effects of homogenous ability grouping and tracking on academic engagement and learning behaviors, and the interpretation of value-added test scores.

MPES Welcomes SESP Alum Claudia Persico

“The Roles of Neonatal Health and Race in Special Education Identification

Claudia Persico
Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis
University of Wisconsin – Madison

Wednesday, December 6th
Annenberg 303

Claudia Persico is an economics and neuroscience-oriented policy scholar with interests in inequality, education policy and early childhood health. Her research on school finance reform has recently been featured in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (“The Effects of School Spending on Educational and Economic Outcomes: Evidence From School Finance Reforms” with C. Kirabo Jackson and Rucker C. Johnson). Her current work examines the social and biological mechanisms underlying the relationships between poverty, the environment, and children’s cognitive development and health. In particular, much of her current research focuses on how early exposure to environmental pollution can cause inequality by affecting child health, development, behavior, and academic achievement, and how the conditions of poverty affect children’s likelihood of having a disability.

MPES Welcomes Marcus Casey

Please join MPES for a colloquium talk:

“Academic Probation, Student Performance and Strategic Course Taking

Marcus Casey
Assistant Professor of Economics
University of Illinois at Chicago

Wednesday, November 29th
Annenberg 303

Watch the livestream or recording here!

We use a regression discontinuity design to study how academic probation affects outcomes and course- taking behaviors at a large public university in the US. Consistent with past work, students placed on probation improve their GPA in the subsequent semester. We document that part of this GPA improvement is attributable to strategic course-taking, and there is significant heterogeneity in these behaviors across race. Non-minority students placed on probation attempt fewer credits, easier courses, and are more likely to withdraw from courses in the following term. In contrast, underrepresented minorities exhibit few of these behaviors, consistent with past work that suggests black and Hispanic students are less likely to possess helpful institutional knowledge and use available support systems such as academic counseling.

MPES Welcomes Harry Holzer and Sandy Baum

Please join MPES for a colloquium talk:

“Making College Work: Pathways to Success for Disadvantaged Students”

Sandy Baum
Senior Fellow
Urban Institute

Harry Holzer
John LaFarge Jr. SJ Professor of Public Policy
Georgetown University

Wednesday, November 1st
Annenberg 303

Watch the recording here!

Too many disadvantaged college students in America spend time and money on coursework without graduating or earning credentials, while others earn degrees or certificates that hold little labor market value. Many of these students also struggle to pay for college, and some incur debts they have difficulty repaying. Harry Holzer of Georgetown University and the Urban Institute’s Sandy Baum propose a range of policy solutions aimed at alleviating difficulties faced by too many of America’s college students, including weak academic preparation, financial pressures, and institutional failures that create barriers to success.

RSVP to the 2017 MPES Conference!!

Northwestern’s Multidisciplinary Program in Education Sciences (MPES) invites you to a Conference and Workshop on Community-based Participatory Research and Community-Academic Partnerships! 

May 18-19, 2017
Annenberg Hall (Room 303)
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

MPES is pleased to announce that our 2017 conference will focus on the important and growing role of community-based participatory research and community-academic partnerships in our fields. The conference will offer opportunities to hear from leading scholars in the field (from Northwestern and beyond), learn about current MPES Fellows’ research, and discuss conference participants’ contributions and challenges in these areas.


May 18th

12:30 PM – Welcome Lunch and Opening Remarks

1:30 PM – Presentation by Darius Tandon (Northwestern University), “Future Directions for Community-Engaged Research”

2:30 PM – Presentation by Simone Ispa-Landa (Northwestern University), “The Principal-Parent Relationship in High-Poverty Schools: Does Racial Similarity Matter for Trust?”

May 19th

8:00 AM – Opening Remarks by David Figlio (Northwestern University) and Breakfast

9:00 AM – Presentation by Dilafruz Williams (Portland State University), “Pathways to Successful Community-University-School Partnerships”

10:30 AM – MPES Fellow Poster Presentations, “The Role of Teachers, Peers, and Students”

11:30 AM – Presentation by Angela Booker (University of California-San Diego), TBA

1:00 PM – Lunch

2:00 PM – MPES Fellow Poster Presentations, “Schools, Policies, and Networks”

3:00 PM – Presentation by Meredith Minkler (University of California-Berkeley), “Community-based Participatory Research as a Strategy for Policy Change to Reduce Health and Social Inequities”

4:30 PM – Light Appetizers and Closing Remarks

Please RSVP* here:

*Please note, participation in the conference will be granted on a first-come, first-serve basis until the event is at capacity. Upon registering, you will receive a follow-up email confirming your participation or your spot on the waiting list. For more information, please contact Elora Ditton (, MPES Program Coordinator.

MPES 2017 Application Window is Now Open!

The Multidisciplinary Program in Education Sciences (MPES) is a pre-doctoral training grant that brings together faculty and doctoral students from Economics, Human Development and Social Policy, Learning Sciences, Psychology, Sociology, and Statistics, with support from the U.S. Department of Education Sciences (IES). Our program provides up to 2 years of graduate student tuition, plus a $30,000 annual stipend and funding to support research and travel to Ph.D. students who will write a dissertation on an education-related topic. The Department of Education is committed to producing scholars who are prepared to contribute to their mission of establishing an evidence-based approach to understanding and improving American education.

In addition to the tuition and stipend benefits, MPES provides a range of opportunities. MPES fellows are required to take additional coursework, engage in a research apprenticeship with affiliated faculty members, attend bimonthly seminars on education research and occasional conferences, and participate in a practicum at Evanston Township High School designed to address applied research questions. Optional training opportunities include a summer internship at the American Institutes for Research.

To apply, please submit the following:

  • A 1-2 page memo describing your research interest in education
  • A C.V. or résumé, including GRE scores, any awards received, and your citizenship
  • One letter of reference from a faculty member in your Ph.D. program that speaks to your academic promise and the centrality of education to your research interests (this can be included in your application, or can be emailed directly to Prof. Rapp by the faculty member).

Eligible graduate students must be currently a first-year student in the Ph.D. programs in Human Development & Social Policy, Learning Sciences, Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, or a second-year student in Economics. Candidates must be committed to writing a dissertation on an education-related topic. Eligibility is limited to United States citizens.


Please submit applications via email to the MPES Director, Prof. David Rapp, at

MPES Welcomes Professor Patricia Burch!

“Improving Access to, Quality and the Effectiveness of Digital Instruction in K-12 Education”

Patricia Burch
Associate Professor of Education
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
12:30-1:30 PM
Annenberg 303

Digital instruction – using a digital platform (such as netbook, computer or handheld device) as a central part of instruction – is rapidly becoming a commonplace component of K-12 classroom and supplemental instruction. There is considerable variation in how providers of educational technology describe what they do, their services, how students access services, and what is delivered, complicating efforts to accurately assess its impact. This paper presents findings from a quasi-experimental mixed methods study of digital tutoring using rich, longitudinal observational and interview data, student attendance patterns and effects of digital tutoring on low-income students’ reading and mathematics achievement. We find significant associations between formats, curriculum drivers, tutor locations, and other characteristics of digital providers and their effectiveness in increasing student achievement, as well as differential access by student characteristics, that warrant further investigation as digital providers’ roles in K–12 instruction continue to expand.

Brian Jacob visits MPES fellows

Please join MPES for a colloquium talk:

“Differentiated Accountability and Education Production: Evidence from NCLB Waivers”

Brian Jacob
Walter H. Annenberg Professor of
Education Policy and Professor of Economics
University of Michigan
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
2:00-3:00 PM
Annenberg 317*space is limited so please arrive early

See Talk Flyer Here