Two SESP Postdocs Honored for Outstanding Dissertations

Two SESP Postdocs Honored for Outstanding Dissertations

Kelly McMahon and Daniella HallKelly McMahon (l) and Daniella Hall

Northwestern University postdoctoral fellows Kelly McMahon and Daniella Hall have received 2017 Outstanding Dissertation of the Year awards from the American Educational Research Association.

McMahon’s dissertation, “Striking a Balance with School Accountability: Design and Use of Progress Reports and Quality Reviews in New York City,” explored the relationship between school accountability models and school improvement reforms.

She found that researchers and designers shouldn’t try to achieve a perfect balance between pressure and support.

“Instead, we should consider how a district attempts to strike the right balance and learn from its efforts,” said McMahon, whose dissertation was best overall in the “Districts in Research and Reform” Special Interest Group of AERA.

Hall examined policies and practices of locally controlled school boards in Vermont, a state with a long history of community involvement in school governance.

Her dissertation, “Local Control as Resistance: Policy and Practice of Autonomous School Boards,” was one of two winners for Division L’s (Educational Policy and Politics) Outstanding Dissertation Award.

Her research offered a new perspective on the challenges and strengths of locally controlled school boards in rural areas, and how these findings can inform board practices in less autonomous parts of the country.

Hall is currently studying how school systems design, manage and improve instruction as part of the Spencer Systems Study, a multi-year collaboration with Northwestern professor Jim Spillane; and Donald Peurach, David Cohen, and Christine Neumerski of the University of Michigan.

McMahon received her PhD from the University of Michigan and is supervised by Professor Cynthia Coburn. Hall earned her doctorate at Pennsylvania State University and works with Spillane.

They will receive their awards at AERA’s annual convention in San Antonio at the end of April.  

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 3/24/17