Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy


Northwestern Team Places in National Case Competition

Bea La O’ and Kelsey Schalkle

Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change students Bea La O’ and Kelsey Schalkle scored big in one of the nation’s most prestigious case competitions. Their Northwestern team placed third at the National MBA Human Capital Case Competition in Nashville.

Teams from top graduate schools presented solutions to a real-world human capital problem for a large international organization. The five Northwestern team members are students at SESP and Kellogg School of Management.

New Undergraduate Leadership Board Advises on Student Programs

Board members Rebecca Rego, Josephine Lee, Daniel Liss, Anna Nowinski, Nicola Rhyan, Alex Tom, Weronika Wasilewski. Not pictured are Luke Cianciotto, Kali Maginity and Anisa Mian.

SESP has a commitment to students, and to programming that engages them. The SESP Leadership and Programming Board, consisting of 10 undergraduate volunteers, is now advising the School on student events and student engagement.

Board members are planning events focused on professional development, academic discussion and community togetherness. The Board also has the goal of increasing community engagement through social media. Alumni who are interested in mentoring students may e-mail

Northwestern Academy Debuts to Improve College Access

Northwestern Academy Debuts to Improve College Access
Photo By Steve Drey

Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools is welcoming its first students this spring. The Academy is designed to help low-income, academically talented Chicago high school students prepare for selective colleges.

Through SESP’s Center for Talent Development, the Academy provides school-year and summer classes, academic tutoring, college counseling, test preparation, mentoring and family workshops. Each year, 50 Chicago Public Schools ninth-graders who are not enrolled in selective enrollment schools will be chosen to join the fouryear program at no cost.

“Northwestern is deeply committed to supporting Chicago Public School students and providing opportunities for a world-class education that will prepare these students for college and careers,” says Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.

Infant Health Has Long-Term Impact on Education

Infant Health Has Long-Term Impact on Education

In a recently published study, professor David Figlio and his colleagues discovered that poor infant health, as indicated by low birth weight, lowers a child’s educational attainment. When the researchers compared the progress from birth through middle school of 1.3 million children, including 14,000 twin pairs, they found that low birth weight had a consistent impact.

Low birth weight and infant health predicted poor school achievement despite variations in school quality, race, ethnicity, family background and parent education. This study, conducted with SESP associate professor Jonathan Guryan, Krzysztof Karbownik and Jeffrey Roth, offers further evidence that effects of health on adult outcomes are established very early.

“Efforts to improve educational attainment need to begin before birth,” says Figlio. “There are considerable social disparities in neonatal health, so many children from disadvantaged backgrounds start life with a double disadvantage.”

Teachers Learn from Peers in Important Ways Andrew Campbell

Teachers Learn from Peers in Important Ways

Teachers who have more effective colleagues in their school are more effective teachers themselves, a study by associate professor Kirabo Jackson shows. Peer learning is the reason, according to Jackson.

“We document that a teacher’s own performance is affected by the quality of her peers,” says Jackson of his study published in American Economic Journal. Analyzing long-term data, he found changes in the test scores of a teacher’s students when colleagues at the same grade level changed. Students in the same grade as certified and experienced teachers may benefit from spillover effects that improve their achievement, he notes.

This research has striking implications for placement and compensation policies. Novice teachers should be exposed to effective teachers, and compensation that rewards teachers in relation to peers may be detrimental, according to Jackson.

Faculty Go Global with Talks, Seminars, Studies

Faculty Go Global with Talks, Seminars, Studies

School of Education and Social Policy faculty members have been building global connections as they share expertise and build innovation.

For example, professor David Figlio visited Munich twice as he worked to improve education, meeting with the CESifo global network on the economics of education and speaking at a technology conference on online learning. In Columbia, he addressed the International Research Seminar on Educational Quality about healthy child development.

In Europe and Asia, professor James Spillane communicated about school leadership. In Barcelona, he gave a keynote address at the international conference of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He also led a seminar at the University of Oslo and addressed Norwegian school principals. In Indonesia, he gave a keynote address to 350 delegates from 35 countries at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement and a talk on distributed leadership at Yogyakarta State University. He also addressed the Asia Leadership Summit at the University of Malaya.

Like Spillane, professor Cynthia Coburn traveled to Norway to teach a twoday seminar about education policy at the University of Oslo. As a guest of the Japanese government, associate professor Diane Schanzenbach advised Japanese officials on trade-offs in early childhood education policy.

Assistant professor Michael Horn’s innovations in using emerging technologies for interactive learning took him to Europe as he co-organized a conference in Scotland and presented at a conference in Spain. In Israel, professor Miriam Sherin was a keynote speaker at the Symposium on Video Resources for Mathematics Teacher Development.