Six Scholars Named as Nation’s Most Influential

Six Scholars Named as Nation’s Most Influential

Six professors named as EduscholarsEduScholars (from top left clockwise) Figlio, Hedges, Jackson, Spillane, Schanzenbach and Lee.

Six Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy faculty members were named to Education Week’s annual list of 200 influential academics in education policy.

The scholars are among the top in their fields and were selected for their ability to generate national conversations based on their research findings.

It’s the 12th consecutive appearance for School of Education and Social Policy Dean David Figlio, Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy. Figlio, who begins a new role as provost at the University of Rochester on July 1, has been recognized as an influential scholar every year since 2010.

View the 2022 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings.

In addition to Figlio, School of Education and Social Policy Edu-Scholars for 2022 include: Larry Hedges, Kirabo Jackson, Carol Lee, Diane Schanzenbach, and James Spillane.


  • In 2021, studies coauthored by Figlio and Jackson were named to the Edutopia’s10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2021. Figlio’s study, published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, helped dismantle myths about immigrant students. Work by Jackson, Abraham Harris Professor of Education and Social Policy, and graduate student Sebastián Kiguel, “reframed our notion of “good” schools,” providing a better picture of a quality school because it goes beyond test scores, Edutopia said.
  • Hedges, Board of Trustees Professor of Statistics and Social Policy, is among the most cited scholars with 110,293 citations throughout his career. His 2021 book Introduction to Meta-Analysis was referenced more than 16,000 times, according to Google Scholar. His 2014 book, Statistical Methods for Meta-Analysis has more than 17,000 citations.
  • Research by Hedges, Jackson, and Schanzenbach, was cited in the scientific background paper justifying the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics. 
  • Schanzenbach, the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, penned essays and provided analysis for a wide range of publications in 2021, from Brookings, Barron’s, and Quartz to The Hill.
  • Schanzenbach directs Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. Figlio, Hedges, and Jackson are IPR faculty fellows.
  • Lee, professor emeritus of learning sciences and president-elect of the National Academy of Education, received a prestigious Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education for her outstanding contributions to learning sciences research. She also won the 2021 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) James R. Squire Award for her “transforming influence” and lasting contributions to education.
  • Spillane, president elect of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement, was SESP’s highest ranking scholar at 59. His books Distributed Leadership and Towards a Theory of Leadership Practice: A Distributed Perspective are among the most cited educational leadership books. He is the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change.

Education Week blogger Fred Hess, director of education policy for the American Enterprise Institute, created the rankings to recognize relevant and useful scholarship. Hess used nine metrics to calculate how well university-based academics connect with the general public on academic research findings, including Google Scholar, web, newspaper and congressional record mentions, and Twitter.

The list includes the top finishers from the previous year plus ‘at-large’ nominees chosen by a committee. Here’s a full explanation of the scoring process. Hess concedes the process isn't exactly perfect and the rankings include just a sliver of faculty who are tackling education or education policy issues. The scores tend to favor senior scholars who published a successful book or a big study over the last year.

His lists also show the conversations around education aren't changing much, at least according to the top books. Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success remains number one—16 years after its initial publication.

Other top books were Angela Duckworth’s Grit: Emily Oster’s The Power of Passion and Perseverance (2016); Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2018); Gholdy Muhammad’s Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy (2020); and Christopher Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood (2016).

“Aside from Oster and Muhammad’s volumes, these are the same books that held the top spots the last several years,” Hess wrote.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 9/29/22