MA in Education and Social Policy

Alumni Profiles

Graduates of the EDSP program have secured fantastic jobs in various education policy organizations.  Current alumni are now working at MDRC, the Center on School Effectiveness and Inequality at MIT, Teach for America, the Research and Policy Support Group at the NYC Department of Education, and Graduate NYC!, a research foundation of CUNY.

Read more about some of our recent alumni:

  • Catherine Corbin
  • Annice Correia
  • Matthew Harrington
  • Marissa Hiruma
  • Dongmo Li
  • Mengwei Luo
  • Nekisha Robertson
  • Corey Savage
  • Lianna Wright

                                                                            Faculty, Staff, and Graduating Students, December 2012


Education and Social Policy Capstone

Students also gain experience through the required Capstone course, where they work in teams during their final semester to design and perform a research study. Projects are designed and written for a particular “clientele” in the policy community. Throughout the tenure of their capstone project, students are expected to consult with faculty who have relevant expertise in appropriate fields of research specialization. 

Below you can find the work that has been done in the past. Click the students' name below to see their Capstone poster, and read on to find abstracts from recent Capstone projects.

Education and Social Policy Capstone Posters

Charmain Shamara Lester

Andrea Dykyj, Alicia Haelen, Victoria Hess

Hana Lee, Sarah Sanchis, Sisi Li

Lan Duo, Pingping Liu, Christine Rabbit


Education and Social Policy Capstone Abstracts

Fall 2014


Influence of Expectations upon Postsecondary Plans: An Analysis of Student Demographics, Family Characteristics & School Factors Lan Dou, Pingping Liu, and Christine Rabbitt


Policymakers, schools, and college-access providers are increasingly concerned with the growing educational attainment gap within the United States. Although students hold higher expectations today regarding future education attainment, aspirations do not necessarily result in concrete plans that lead to enrollment. Using data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) this paper will analyze how student and parent expectations during the student’s 9th grade year impact the development of the student’s postsecondary plan in their 11th grade year. Our results indicate that, on average, student and parent expectations regarding higher education align with the construction of future plans. This paper intends to improve our understanding of how family characteristics and school conditions affect student expectations and impact future postsecondary enrollment plans


School Finance: How Much Does Money Really Matter? An Analysis Based on Math and ELA Test Scores. Hana Lee Sisi Li Sarah Sanchis


Public school funding represents a huge business in the United States. The money spent on education has steadily increased over the last decades, both in absolute terms and as a share of total expenditure. The United States spends more on education than any other developed country, however, ranks at or below average in the latest international math, science, and reading scores, compared with the world's most developed countries. Unfortunately, financing is distributed unequally across states, districts, schools and students. The relationship between government spending on public education and student outcomes has been an endless source of debate among those involved in education policy. There is disagreement in academic literature regarding whether raising school expenditures improve academic outcomes. As in any public policy intervention, making sure that taxpayers’ money is used in its most efficient way is key for securing its future support. Therefore, this work intends to measure the effect of funding on academic achievement across school districts in New York State, measured through ELA and Math test scores. We use tests scores, demographic information and finance data from the New York State Education Department. Our results, although not statistically significant, supported our hypothesis that in New York State, per pupil expenditure by school districts explain only a small part of the variation in academic achievement in ELA and Math test scores. The relevance of our work resides in the fact that it can serve as a conversation starter regarding the rubrics in which money is invested, and which of them is more relevant for student achievement; considering that discretionary funds are invested unequally across districts and can contribute in a non-negligible fashion to the differences we see in academic outcomes across states and districts.


Fall 2013


Does Violent Crime Affect Student Achievement? Evidence from Chicago, Illinois

Charmaine S. Lester


This paper uses rich data on violent crime and student achievement in Chicago, Illinois to: determine the impact of violent crime on student test scores across elementary and middle school grades, identify the severity of the impact of each crime relative to the impact of other violent crimes, and determine how violent crimes affect high poverty and racial homogeneous communities differently. My results show striking differences in the effect of violent crimes on student reading and math test scores. Across all community areas, the impact on reading test scores is significant, while the effect on math test scores is insignificant. Among communities that experience the highest rates of violent crime, the impact on reading test scores is more severe than in communities that experience lower rates of violent crime.


Emerging Trends and Recruitment Initiatives of the STEM Teaching Workforce: An Analysis of Teacher Quality, Motivators of Entry, and Gender Effects

Andrea Dykyj, Alicia Haelen, and Victoria Hess


This paper focuses on broader employment and workforce trends, analyzing the impact of policy initiatives on changes in STEM professionals choosing career paths in teaching. Utilizing data on STEM professions, we aim to identify whether professionals who are highly qualified in content-related knowledge are moving into the STEM teaching field at a greater rate, given recent policy trends. In our analysis we we look to identify the effects of graduate, time, and policy characteristics on the likelihood of the nation’s trained scientists and engineers entering the teaching profession as STEM teachers.  We hypothesize that the increase in STEM education initiatives influenced the composition of the STEM teaching workforce to include more content-knowledgeable and credentialed professionals over time. Additionally, we believe that the reasons for entering STEM teaching differ from reasons for entering another key ways. Finally, we posit that the reasons for entering the STEM teaching profession differ by gender in systematic ways that can be mitigated by target policies.


What Factors Contribute to Fourth-grade Math Achievement? A Comparative Study Between U.S and East Asian Students

Yan Yan, Zhuoyi Yu, Yu Fu


In this cross-country comparative study, we employ the data of Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) on the United States as well as four Asian countries/regions including Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore in the most recent two year cycles, 2007 and 2011, considering math achievement as our outcome of interest. In order to examine the effects of factors such as poverty on student math achievement, our analysis relies on statistical models draw conclusion about the effects of these factors.

The merits of cross-country studies lie in identifying factors that contribute to high student academic achievement, and understanding the educational practice in other countries for the sake of drawing policy implications to improve student outcomes in a certain country. The primary research question we are trying to address in this research project is which factors -- school, family or teacher effects -- contribute to the impressively outstanding performance displayed by East Asian students so as to draw further policy implications for each countries when improving student achievement is considered as a common goal


School Violence and Academic Achievement Evaluating the Effects of School Violence in Academic Achievement among High School Students

Yiqing Fang, Juliana Pena, Ran Ren


The American education system has the dual responsibilities of academically educating America’s youth and preparing them to become social young adults. However, instructional processes are often affected by many factors. Recently, the impact of school violence on academic performance has gained some attention in the educational arena. Nevertheless, there is a shortage of empirical studies that link the effects of school violence on educational achievement in American education institutions. Using the Education Longitudinal Survey of 2002 dataset, this study aims to assess the effects of individual exposure to school violence in relation to academic achievement among high school students. Thus, the ultimate goal of this study is to identify and explain the relationship between school violence and academic achievement.   Our main outcome of interest is the student math standardized tests score on behalf academic performance. Student’s perception of safety in school will be analyzed as an explanatory variable. This variables where chosen to study the relationship between violence on school and academic achievement. Regarding individual characteristics, demographic factors are expected to be responsible for school environment. This research will shed light on how race plays and important role in in the story of school violence. Other predictors will be socioeconomic status (SES), which is conventionally included in educational empirical studies. Analysis using this type of programs revealed that on average, students from lower SES group had higher levels of perceived school danger, which further relates to academic achievement.


Fall 2012


Kids in Chaos: Examining the Impacts of Disorderly School and Classroom Environments on Math Achievement in Elementary Schools

Alexis Groner | Mingqi Jing | Frances Rivera | Sara Shumway


This research examines the effects of school and classroom environments on math achievement. There is general agreement among a variety of stakeholders that achievement and poor behavior are inversely related. Yet a recent focus in education policy on teacher quality has, in some circles, shifted attention away from the general functioning of the school and classroom environment in favor of addressing curriculum and technique. We were less interested in issues of simple noise control, or in classrooms where minor disruptions slow down progress on a given day, but rather in schools and classrooms where there is a complete failure to provide safe, well-run, orderly environment that is conducive to learning. Accounting for many of the other factors that impact student achievement, we asked how much a lack of safety, discipline, or control in the school and classroom environment hurts student learning, as measured by math achievement scores.  We hypothesize that if a child is in a disorderly environment where a lack of appropriate discipline or control on the part of the teacher or school is pervasive, this will have a significant negative effect on the child’s learning, holding all else constant.


How Do Parent, School & Home Factors Affect Parent Expectations for their Children’s Post-Secondary Attainment?

Dongmo Li, Mengwei Luo, Lisa Richmond, Jessica Zulawski


The goal of our study is twofold. First, our study aims to estimate the relationship among parental involvement, in both in-school and out-of-school activities, school, and home factors on a parent’s expectations for their child’s college attainment. Second, we examine the likelihood of a parent opening a child college savings account as it relates to these parental involvement, school, and home factors. Using data from the National Household Education Surveys (NHES) Parent and Family Involvement in Education survey from the 2003 and 2007 administrations, this study suggests that overall, parental involvement is positively correlated to parent’s expectation on child’s college attainment. In addition, the results of this study suggest college expectation varies across gender and ethnicity, with higher expectations for female, white and black students. In regard to the question on opening a college savings account, we find that parents who expect their children to attend college are over 30 percent more likely to open an account to save for their child’s college education. Also, parental school involvement and family socioeconomic status is found to have differential effects on the opening of a savings account. Taken together these suggest important policy implications for parental involvement and college savings accounts.


Bang for your Buck:  The Effects of Teacher Salary on Retention

Amudha Balaraman, Hee Jin Chung, Matthew Harrington, Lianna Wright


In a 2012 campaign speech, President Barack Obama emphatically pronounced that he is "…running to make sure that America has the best education system on earth, from pre-K all the way to post-graduate…and that means hiring new teachers, especially in math and science." This view that the lack of qualified teachers is a result of short supply is held by many education reformers who stress the need to increase the supply of qualified teachers who can teach the nation’s children.  Some research, however, argues that the main problem regarding the lack of qualified and exceptional teachers may not be the result of a diminished pool of qualified teachers but rather the problem teachers leaving the profession.       The goal of this study is to see what impact, if any, salary has on teacher retention rates.  The results of our study suggest that increases in salary are positively related to teacher retention. This finding was consistent across models. However, due to some limitations with the data, we were not able to suggest a causal relationship between teacher retention and salary. This was due to the fact that reverse causality may exist between teacher salary and years of teacher experience suggesting that the longer one remains a teacher, the greater the salary. 


Does Time Matter? The Effect of Instructional Time on Eighth Grade Math Achievement: A Comparative Analysis

HyeSun An, Yuzhen Deqingyuzhen, Stuart Klanfer, Corey Savage


The relationship between instructional time and student achievement has become a major topic of research, the findings of which can have substantial repercussions for how teaching and learning is conducted. Using data from the International math and science assessments, such as the Trends in International Math and Science Survey (TIMSS) this study investigates the effect of instructional time on 8th grade math achievement for students from Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United States.  The East Asian countries were chosen because they have been the top nations in 8th grade math achievement TIMSS for 2003 and 2007. This study attempts to isolate the impact of instructional time by accounting for a number of student, teacher, and school characteristics.  We will attempt to account for differences in teacher quality and socioeconomic status.  The goal of this research is to contribute to the literature on school resources in order to better understand their potential impact on student achievement.


Fall 2011


College Readiness: High School Indicators of Successful Completion of Post-Secondary Education

Annice Correia, Julia Forman, Berina Pobric, Amanda Smith


This paper examines high school characteristics that influence college completion rates for American students. We emphasize various policies attempting to raise college completion rates through administering changes within high schools. This paper examines the relationship between various school-level variables, representing college readiness, and post-secondary certification, two-year and four-year completion. We use a logistic model to analyze data from the 1990, 1992, and 1994 waves of the 1988 National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS:88), controlling for a number of school and student characteristics. We conduct analyses of what school-level factors contribute to the completion of a post-secondary certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. We also conduct analyses of student-level factors contributing to the completion of a post-secondary certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree. On the school level we find that, on average, smaller class sizes, more experienced teachers, and having more academic departments beyond the core curriculum of solely math and English increase a student’s odds of completing a post-secondary degree. On the student level we found that participating in extracurricular activities and high student academic aspirations greatly increase a student’s odds of completing a post-secondary degree.



The Impact of Social and Emotional Learning on Academic Outcomes

Catherine Corbin, Alyssa Murphy, Kaitlin Trippany, Rui Wang


Policymakers, districts, schools, employers, and parents are alarmed by increasingly high dropout rates, by the low academic achievement of many high school students, and by the large numbers of high school graduates who are required to take remedial classes in college. Using the data from the Educational Longitudinal Survey (ELS), this paper will analyze how social and emotional learning (SEL) impacts the academic achievement of high school students. We believe social and emotional competencies such as social-awareness and self-management directly influence student academic achievement. Our results indicate that, on average, students with increased social and emotional skills experience increases in their reading scores, math scores, and average cumulative GPA. This paper intends to improve our understanding of the social and emotional competencies and how they relate to academic performance.


Parent Involvement and Its Effects on Academic Achievement

Yuxing Deng, Marissa Hiruma, Nekisha Smith, Toru Taguchi


Parent involvement is a vital component to the academic success of each student. The way in which parents are involved in their child’s life academically can be expressed through the activities that they expose their children to and the rules that are set in the home. There are many activities available to children; yet certain activities may have a more positive influence on academic. Using data from the ECLS-K, this paper examines how parent involvement affects academic achievement, and considers parental involvement to be indicative of the activities children are enrolled in after school.