Figlio, Spillane, Jackson, Lee Among Most Influential Scholars

Figlio, Spillane, Jackson, Lee Among Most Influential Scholars

Four SESP faculty members(l-r) Jackson, Spillane, Lee, Figlio

Four Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) faculty members are listed in Education Week’s 2018 “Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings,” which recognize 200 of the most influential academics in education policy.

The scholars include SESP Dean David Figlio, the Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy; James Spillane, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change; Kirabo Jackson, associate professor of human development and social policy; and Carol Lee, the Tarry Professor of Education and Social Policy.

 Figlio, Spillane, Lee, and Jackson are all faculty fellows at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR).

It’s the sixth consecutive year SESP and IPR faculty members have been recognized among a pool of more than 20,000 scholars. Figlio and Lee have been selected every year since 2013. Spillane is making his fifth straight appearance while Jackson has been an Edu-Scholar the last three years.

The rankings, created by American Enterprise Institute director of Education Policy Frederick M. Hess, reflect the “university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to shape educational practice and policy.”

The ranked scholars include the top 150 finishers from last year, along with 50 "at-large" nominees chosen by the 31-member selection committee.  

Hess calculated how much academics contribute to the public discourse by using Google Scholar citations, books authored, Amazon book rankings, Twitter activity, searches in “Open Syllabus Explorer,” and mentions in the education press mentions, blogs, newspapers, and the Congressional Record.

Figlio was rated tenth overall in economics, despite a notable absence from Twitter.

Hess routinely acknowledges the rankings are far from perfect but believes they convey real, data-driven information and help spark useful discussion. “Given that the ratings are a snapshot, the results obviously favor scholars who published a successful book or big study last year,” wrote Hess, an Education Week blogger.” But that's how the world works. And that's why we do this every year.”

Hess added: “This is a serious but highly imperfect attempt to nudge academe to do more to recognize and encourage scholarship which engages the real world of practice and policy.”

The top ten have authored influential works and played outsized public and professional roles, Hess wrote. Stanford University's Linda Darling-Hammond topped the list, followed by Howard Gardner of Harvard University; Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania; Gloria Ladson-Billings of University of Wisconsin; and Diane Ravitch of New York University.

Fueled by the success of his much-discussed book, The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better, Harvard's Dan Koretz made the biggest single leap from last year, climbing 132 spots to 20th place.

School of Education and Social Policy 2018 Edu-Scholars

David Figlio

An economist by training, Figlio was elected to the National Academy of Education in 2017 for his work involving school accountability, standards, higher education practice, welfare policy, policy design, and the link between health and education. Figlio currently serves as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty.

He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Human Resources and has served on numerous national education task forces and panels. In addition, Figlio has advised the governments of several U.S. states and nations on five continents on the design, implementation, and evaluation of education policy.

James Spillane

Spillane, professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Learning Sciences,  researches the policy implementation process at the state, school district, school and classroom levels. An expert in school leadership and educational policy, he is the author of several books, including Distributed Leadership, Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement and most recently Challenging Standards.

Carol Lee

Lee, a member of the National Academy of Education and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a former president of the American Education Research Association. Her books include Culture, Literacy and Learning and Signifying as a Scaffold for Literary Interpretation. Several major awards have recognized her contributions to education. Lee is widely known for her research that shows the importance of drawing on students’ cultural knowledge to support rigorous learning, and she is the co-founder of four African-centered schools with a 40-year history.

Kirabo Jackson

Jackson is a labor economist and a professor of human development and social policy who studies education and social policy issues. His recent work analyzes the role of peer learning in teacher effectiveness and how student demographics directly affect the distribution of teacher quality across schools. He is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.



By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 1/16/18