Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

FALL 2010

New Faces

Matt Easterday

Matt Easterday earned his PhD in human-computer interaction from Carnegie-Mellon University, where he developed educational software and an educational game design course. He joins the Learning Sciences program as an assistant professor.

Mesmin Destin

Mesmin Destin, a Northwestern graduate with a PhD from the University of Michigan in social psychology, is an assistant professor at the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP). His psychological studies focus on the relationship between finances and educational motivation.

Jonathan Guryan

Jonathan Guryan is an economist who studies education. He joins the Human Development and Social Policy program as an associate professor after 10 years at the University of Chicago. He received his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his bachelor's degree from Princeton University.

Kirabo Jackson

Kirabo Jackson, who received doctoral and master's degrees in economics from Harvard University and a BA from Yale University, studies the economics of education. He comes to Northwestern from Cornell University.

Diane Schanzenbach

Diane Schanzenbach, joins the Human Development and Social Policy program as an associate professor after six years on the faculty at the University of Chicago. Schanzenbach, who researches education policy, received her PhD and MA in economics from Princeton University.


Larry Hedges, National Science Foundation and SRI International, "Generalizability Research with Scaling Up SimCalc Data," $42,987; Institute of Education Sciences, "Postdoctoral Research Training Fellowship in Education Sciences," $160,920.

Vicky Kalogera, Kemi Jona and Darren Gergle, National Science Foundation, "Reach for the Stars," $2,700,000; Jona, Motorola, "Creating Leaders for STEM Student Research," $50,200.

Carol Lee, Institute of Education Sciences and University of Illinois- Chicago, "Reading for Understanding across Grades 6 through 12," $2,500,000.

Dan McAdams, Templeton Foundation and University of Chicago, "The Good Story: Generativity and the Intergenerational Transmission of Virtue," $60,000.

Steven McGee, Boeing Corporation, "Meaningful Science Consortium: Distributed Leadership Support for Lesson Planning," $55,000.


Lindsay Chase-Lansdale was invited to address Head Start's 10th National Research Conference.

Fay Cook was selected to present the keynote address at an international conference on citizenship at the University of Stockholm.

David Figlio won the Outstanding Service Award of the American Education Finance Association.

Eva Lam was invited to serve as area editor for the literacy volume of the Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics.

Dan McAdams gave the first annual Olaf Millert Memorial Lecture at St. Olaf College.

Rosemary Russ was chosen to be a National Academy of Education/ Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow.

James Spillane was selected by the Hong Kong Institute of Education as a senior research fellow and gave the annual lecture on leadership at University of London.

Jim Spillane Begins $3M Research Project on School Leadership

Jim Spillane

What techniques can school leaders adopt that will improve student achievement? A major new study led by professor James Spillane will investigate an approach to leadership development that centers on developing leadership practice in schools rather than focusing exclusively on school principals' knowledge and skills.

The Institute of Education Sciences recently awarded Spillane, with co-principal investigators Brian Junker of Carnegie-Mellon University and Richard Correnti of the University of Pittsburgh, a $3.3 million grant for a fouryear research study. This project will determine whether a structured "walk-through" routine for school leaders can make a difference for urban schools. This school leadership routine, called the Learning Walk®, involves conducting brief visits to classrooms on a regular basis for the purpose of observing classroom instruction.

David Rapp

David Rapp Researches Teaching with Comic Books

Comic books are nothing to laugh at if you're out to improve students' reading skills. That's what associate professor David Rapp thinks.

Rapp is researching the use of comic books in the school curriculum, in partnership with the nonprofit organization Reading with Pictures. The aim of their project is to bring comics into the classroom to teach reading skills as well as academic subjects from biology to history.

As a foundation for this effort, Rapp and his colleagues, including Northwestern alumnus and comic creator Josh Elder, are cataloging comics curricula, designing courses that use comics as primary materials and developing comics reading lists. Rapp's current work also examines what people learn from the graphically depicted narratives.

Says Rapp, "Comics may not be explicitly endorsed by school administrators, but teachers are certainly using them in the classroom. For example, comics are used to encourage reluctant students to practice reading skills; as templates for creative writing; and sometimes as introductions to scientific, historic, literary and cultural topics. Our project is intended to support and enhance the use of comics as a resource for teachers and students."

David Figlio
Photo by Ray Carson

David Figlio's New Voucher Study Shows Gains for Public Schools

Competition from private-school vouchers may lead to academic gains in surrounding public schools. That's one conclusion from a new study by SESP professor David Figlio and doctoral student Cassandra Hart, who examined Florida's tax-credit voucher system for low-income students. Still, vouchers are not seen as a cure-all since the gains are small, though significant.

Students in public schools with a number of private schools in the area had better test scores than students in other public schools, Figlio and Hart found. Pressure to improve increased as the number and variety of schools increased, they maintain. The researchers also found that the Florida students using vouchers differed little in academic performance compared with students in public schools.

"It's extremely difficult to identify the causal consequences of school choice. Because of the way it's set up, Florida's voucher program presents a unique opportunity to solve this puzzle," says Figlio.


Fay Cook, L. R. Jacobs and D. Kim, "Trusting What You Know: Information, Knowledge and Confidence in Social Security," Journal of Politics (2010).

Matthew Easterday, "Policy World: A Cognitive Game for Teaching Deliberation" in N. Pinkward and B. McLaren (Eds.), Educational Technologies for Teaching Argumentation Skills (2010).

Barton Hirsch, M. Mekinda and J. Stawicki, "More than Attendance: The Importance of After-School Program Quality,"American Journal of Community Psychology (2010).

George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream

Dan McAdams, George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream (2010); McAdams and K. S. Cox, "Self and Identity across the Life Span" in A. Freund and R. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of Lifespan Development (2010); McAdams and K. Walden, "Jack Block, the Big Five and Personality from the Standpoint of Actor, Agent and Author," Psychological Inquiry (2010).

E. Baker, B. McGaw and Penelope Peterson (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Education (2010).

James Spillane, K. Healey and L. Mesler Parise, "School Leaders' Opportunities to Learn," Educational Review (2009); Spillane and B. Hunt, "Days of Their Lives: A Mixed-Methods, Descriptive Analysis of the Men and Women at Work in the Principal's Office, Journal of Curriculum Studies (2010); Spillane, A. S. Pareja, L. M. Dorner, C. A. Barnes, H. May, J. Huff, et al., "Mixing Methods in Randomized Controlled Trials," Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability (2010).