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Apple on a Teacher's Desk

Education Policy and Practice


This initiative focuses on evaluating and understanding a range of programs in New York City, with the goal of guiding implementation and informing education policy. Selected projects include:

  • Examining progress in integrating students with disabilities with general education students, and how spending on special education services has changed over time.
  • Assessing the impact of neighborhood institutions, such as NYC's Urban Advantage program, in supporting educational achievement and teacher retention.
  • Measuring racial, ethnic, and other disparities in the rates of gifted-and-talented admissions test taking.

Grants and Projects

Special Education Policy Reforms: Equal Opportunity at Last? (2015-2019)

Leanna Stiefel, Amy Ellen Schwartz (Syracuse)

Groundbreaking 1975 legislation promised long-denied equal opportunity for special education students in public schools, but ensuing efforts to deliver on that promise have been somewhat disappointing. More recently, however, states and school districts around the country have implemented major policy changes aimed at remedying these inequalities. Our research sheds light on special education schooling context and outcomes in NYC public schools over a decade that encompasses a major special education policy reform. Funded by the Spencer Foundation.

Publications thus far:

  • Leanna Stiefel, Menbere Shiferaw, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Michael Gottfried (2017). “Who Feels Included in School? Examining Feelings of Inclusion among Students with Disabilities,” Educational Researcher, 47(2):105–120.

  • Michael Gottfried, Leanna Stiefel, Amy Ellen Schwartz, Bryant Hopkins (2018). “Showing Up: Disparities in Chronic Absenteeism between Students with and without Disabilities in Traditional Public Schools,” Teachers College Record.

  • Leanna Stiefel, Michael Gottfried, Menbere Shiferaw, Amy Ellen Schwartz (2020 forthcoming) “IS Special Education Improving? Evidence on Inclusion and Outcomes from New York City,”  Journal of Disability Policy Studies." 

Understanding Access to and the Impact of New York City’s Gifted and Talented Programs

Ying LuSharon WeinbergJim Kemple

Education researchers often find that available data are not well suited for answering the causal questions they are most interested in answering. This can even be the case when they have collected the data themselves. Randomized experiments are not always feasible due to logistical or ethical concerns. Even when data from randomized experiments are available, such experiments are often “broken” due to missing follow-up data or non-compliance with treatment assignment. In these situations researchers may be forced to make strong, often untestable assumptions in order to make causal inferences. Although researchers cannot always empirically determine whether or not these assumptions hold, they should be able to use their data, along with their substantive knowledge of the area, to gauge how far estimates might be from the truth by performing sensitivity analysis. Funded by The Institute for Education Sciences, US Dept. of Education.

Between Home and School: Distance School Buses and Student Outcomes (2017-2019)

Meryle Weinstein, Amy Ellen Schwartz (Syracuse University), Sarah Cordes (Temple University)

This project uses a new and uniquely detailed data set on NYC school transportation and examines in kindergarten through grade 6 who use the school bus to get to school. We examine disparities in bus utilization and experiences; examine factors that may explain why some students ride the bus and others do not, as well as why some schools offer the school bus while others do not; and study the relationship between school bus use and academic achievement. This project is funded by IES.

The Impact of STEM Education

Meryle Weinstein

An Evaluation of the MAT in Earth Science Program (2015-2019)

This evaluation focuses on how students of graduates of the teacher residency program for Earth Science at the American Museum of Natural History perform on the NYS Regents exam in Earth Science compared to students who of graduates of other Earth Science programs in New York State programs. This project was funded by NSF and the American Museum of Natural History

Evaluation of Urban Advantage (2012-18)

This ongoing project is an evaluation of Urban Advantage (UA), a large-scale collaboration between the New York City (NYC) Department of Education, and eight informal science education institutions, including American Museum of Natural History, the New York Hall of Science, the Staten Island Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, the New York Aquarium, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Queens Botanical Garden, and the New York Botanical Garden. UA provides intensive professional development for participating teachers, materials for science classrooms, and free access to these institutions for class trips and independent visits as a way to provide inquiry-based science instruction to middle school students. This project is funded by the American Museum of Natural History.


  • Weinstein, M. & M. Shiferaw (under review). The Urban Advantage: The Impact of Informal Science Collaborations on Student Achievement, Revisited. Evaluation Review.
  • Weinstein, M., E. R. Whitesell, & A. E. Schwartz (2014). "Museums, Zoos, and Gardens: How Formal-Informal Partnerships Can Impact Urban Students’ Performance in Science.” Evaluation Review, pp. 1-30, doi:10.1177/0193841X14553299, PMID: 25304519.

Uncapping of Mandatory Retirement on Postsecondary Institutions

Sharon WeinbergMarc Scott

The Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act passed by Congress in 1986 eliminated mandatory age-related retirement at age 70, but initially, all postsecondary institutions were exempt from the Act, providing an opportunity to evaluate faculty behavior before and after the policy change.  Our results of an empirical analysis on nearly four decades of faculty data (from 1981 to 2009) from a large private metropolitan research university in the northeast contradicts the forecast used to justify the policy change and shows the extent to which faculty retirement behavior has changed.