Research

Publications

See my Google Scholar for published projects and please contact me for any PDFs behind paywalls!

In the Field

Here are a few projects that are currently in progress or “in the field”—either the field experiment is still ongoing or we have finished collecting data and are writing up results.

Abstract: This project investigates how school districts grapple with ethical dilemmas about whom to help as they navigate legal mandates that conflict with fiscal realities: state and federal requirements for districts to prioritize certain categories of students coupled with prohibitions on allowing cost to influence decisions.

My research shows that these mandates do not eliminate rationing. Rather, they encourage rationing by inconvenience; hidden roadblocks to receiving extra help that deter all but the most persistent parents and advocates. This yields two forms of unequal access to justice. The first is between different categories of students: parents of students with disabilities have rights to insist that the student receives more resources, while parents of students in other categories like students living in poverty or struggling to learn English have weaker rights. The second form of inequality is within the disability category. While all parents have the same formal rights, there is unequal rights enforcement. The project uses spatial analyses of due process filings and computational text analyses of hearing decisions to illuminate these patterns of inequality. By studying this case, the project aims to contribute to research on the role of civil enforcement in anti-poverty policy and on how to use tools from computational social science to study everyday forms of legal adversity.

Can Technology Help Reduce Barriers to Families Engaging with K-12 Schools?

Abstract: To succeed in school, students have to be present. Families support student atten-dance through mechanisms like transportation, encouragement, and communicatingwith schools about excused absences, but schools can struggle to engage families. Much existing evidence on absenteeism interventions is based on approaches to family engagement where schools use one-way communications to inform families about negative events, like absenteeism. Our planned study will evaluate a web and mobile application specifically designed for teachers to engage families in positive, two-way communications about students’ attendance. With the Washington, DC, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) and 6 public schools, we’re testing whether giving teachers training and a family engagement app improves student attendance. The findings will shape the District’s strategies for improving student attendance and investing in education technology.

Can College Navigators in Public Housing Help Reduce Inequalities in Postsecondary Outcomes?

Abstract: Researchers have tested a variety of interventions to promote FAFSA completion and postsecondary enrollment among low-income students. Many debates about the efficacy of these interventions focus on the strength of the intervention. But an important second dimension is which students the interventions target.

This study, a HUD-funded evaluation, presents results from a unique intervention design where on-the-ground actors shape the strength of the intervention. In the study, the Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) at the U.S. General Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) partnered to evaluate a HUD demonstration project (Project SOAR) that placed college navigators in public housing sites to assist youth residents aged 15-20 with FAFSA completion, college planning, and financial literacy. In four public housing agencies (PHAs)—Chicago; Philadelphia; Seattle; and Los Angeles—buildings were randomized so that college navigators would serve those in the buildings, comprising approximately half the youth in the PHA (analytic sample: N = 1231, N = 1300, N = 713; N = 1444 respectively). In five PHAs—Milwaukee; Phoenix; Northwest Georgia; Prichard Alabama; High Point North Carolina—we use quasi-experimental methods to measure the impact.

First, we use detailed, datestamped data on the interactions college navigators had with youth residents to investigate: what college-going interventions do navigators provide and to whom? The analysis shows that navigators deliver a mix of interventions ranging from lighter-touch informational outreach to more time-intensive in-person mentoring. Computational text analysis of navigators’ free-text notes shows variation within these categories. In addition to variation in what intervention is delivered, demographic data from HUD’s administrative records shows variation across subgroups in whom navigators engage at all.

In the second part of the analysis, we link information from the study with student-level information on FAFSA completion, Pell receipt, and postsecondary enrollment. In the four experimental PHAs, we examine the causal effect of the navigators for the students living in the treatment buildings (ITT) and students living in those buildings who engaged with the navigator (CACE). In the five non-experimental PHAs, we use synthetic control and N = 2940 non-treated PHAs as the donor pool to compare trends pre and post navigator placement in the PHA. Results are forthcoming by the meeting, with details on the analysis pre-registered here. The study is powered to detect a 6-7 percentage point change in the primary outcome of FAFSA completion.

Overall, the study’s results aim to contribute to two literatures on reducing socioeconomic gaps in postsecondary attainment. First, building on a growing literature on the use of computational text analysis to study educational inequality, we will show how free text notes on interactions can be used to explore variation in an intervention’s delivery. Second, building on debates about how to effectively target college-going interventions, we will explore targeting within age eligibility.