Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy


Claude Steele

Claude Steele Will Speak at Convocation

Claude M. Steele, provost of Columbia University, will be the featured speaker at the Convocation for the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) on June 19. Steele, who is also a professor of psychology and was on thefaculty at Stanford University, is a prominent scholar in the field of social psychology.

Capital Building

Policy Briefing Highlights Research on No Child Left Behind

Since 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act has been the centerpiece of American education reform. To inform legislators and policy makers preparing to retool the legislation, professors David Figlio and Thomas Cook highlighted important research findings at a February 22 policy briefing on Capitol Hill presented by the Institute for Policy Research.

The nationally known experts discussed effects of the current law, their latest research and data-driven recommendations for improving the law. Specifically, Cook described his research on why No Child Left Behind raises mathematics scores and the value of high state-level standards. Figlio explained what research reveals about school accountability. Two of his current research projects involve evaluating the largest school-voucher program in the United States and using a state census of public school principals to study school accountability in Florida.

Penelope Peterson, Barbara Caulfield, Penny Bender Sebring

Alumni Awards Honor Barbara Caulfield, Penny Bender Sebring

Barbara Caulfield (BS69, left) and Penny Bender Sebring (PhD85, right, with Dean Penelope Peterson, center) received 2009 Northwestern University Alumni Association Alumni Merit Awards. Caulfield is managing partner of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP's Silicon Valley Office and a former U.S. District Judge in the Northern District of California. Sebring is co-founder of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and senior research associate at the University of Chicago.

Meixi Ng Wins Fellowship for Around-The-World Research

Meixi Ng

This summer junior Meixi Ng will go global with the 2010 Circumnavigators Club Foundation Around-the-World Travel-Study Grant. Ng is the first SESP student to win the fellowship, presented each year to a Northwestern University junior.

For her worldwide project “Education as Transformation: The Power of Schools” Ng will visit schools focusing on transformative education in marginalized communities. She will spend time in Guatemala, Singapore, Ghana, Australia, South Africa and other countries to seek best practices and guiding principles that can be shared in a broader context. “It’s a dream come true for me,” says Ng.

Stimulus Funding

Three SESP Projects Receive Stimulus Funding

Three forward-thinking projects at the School of Education and Social Policy have been funded by the stimulus package President Obama signed into law last year as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

SESP’s most recent stimulus package award went to associate professor Emma Adam for a study of the effects of racial discrimination on physical health. Crossing the borders between psychology and biomedicine, Adam examines the interplay between stress and health, especially by observing how social experiences relate to levels of the hormone cortisol and other biomarkers of stress and health.

This project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, focuses on the effects of patterns of discrimination as they relate to physiological indicators of health risks. Adam will supervise collection of biological data on stress and pre-disease markers among middle-income African American and European American families in a Maryland community, correlating physiological data with current daily experiences as well as past histories of race-based social stress collected over an 18-year period.

Last summer research associate professor Kemi Jona started a summer fellowship program with stimulus funding from the National Cancer Institute. This program supports undergraduate students along their trajectory toward science or healthrelated research careers and enables high school biology teachers to develop hands-on research skills. The students gain research experience, and the teachers translate their cutting- edge health-related research into classroom activities.

Another stimulus package project aimed at training teachers will increase the knowledge and skills of Chicago science and mathematics teachers. With funding from the National Science Foundation, research associate professor Steven McGee is leading a SESP team to plan Chicago Transformation Teacher Institutes for teachers in leadership positions in Chicago Public Schools. SESP is partnering with Illinois Institute of Technology to provide six courses in environmental and life science.


1,000 Students Use iLabs to Access Lab Equipment Worldwide

This school year some 1,000 middle and high school students from the Chicago area and beyond have been using science equipment almost 9,000 miles away to learn about radioactivity and shed light on the question “Do cell phones fry your brain?”

The five-day laboratory curriculum on radioactivity is a product of the iLab Network, which is supported by a $1 million National Science Foundation grant shared by Northwestern University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. iLab researchers at Northwestern are developing remote online laboratory experiences for high school students to give them access to world-class science resources and instruments around the globe. Nine labs are being used in the United States, China and other countries by a wide range of schools — including virtual, rural, suburban and urban schools.

“iLabs demonstrate how innovative learning technologies can level the playing field and provide all students — regardless of a school’s location or resources — access to advanced and authentic science lab experiences,” says research associate professor Kemi Jona, director of the Office of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education Partnerships.

National Conference Eyes Research Data on Students

National Conference
New MPES fellows include (front, left to right) Christine Yang, Elyse Kovalsky, (back row) Matthew Shirrell, Linsey Smith and James Pustejovsky. Not pictured, Kelly Hallberg and Christina Licalsi-Labelle.

How can administrative data on K–16 students lead to groundbreaking new policy on critical issues in education? To address effective ways that education researchers can use administrative data sets, the Multidisciplinary Program in Education Sciences (MPES) is hosting a conference on May 21. Scholars from across the nation will make presentations.

The MPES program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, was founded in 2004 to train doctoral students in rigorous methods for education research. To date, the 37 MPES fellows throughout six cohorts have made 140 presentations and amassed 76 publications. To facilitate their work, the program offers speakers, workshops, conferences and working groups related to education research.