Current Research Projects

Dr. Pedro Reyes, Ashbel Smith Professor in Education Policy

Photo of Pedro Reyes

Pedro Reyes’ current research focuses on Education and Opportunity. He is pursuing two related questions; the first question is focused on education transitions to postsecondary education and adulthood. Four primary research questions are being explored in this area of study: 1) Who persists through high school; 2) Who gains access to postsecondary institutions and why? What is the role of families and others in successful transitions?; 3) Who persists through college and why, and; 4) Who eventually completes their postsecondary education and earns some type of degree or certificate and why? In order to address these sets of questions, my research focuses on two separate cohorts of Texas students. Students in the first cohort were high school freshman in the school year 2003-04, while students in the second cohort were high school seniors in the 2003-04 school year. As we began following Cohort 1 students in their freshman year, this cohort was studied to determine their high school persistence patterns, their initial college access rates, and the factors that predicted access to postsecondary institutions. The second cohort of students graduated from high school in 2004 and had thus been out of high school for six years at the time of this study, this cohort was analyzed for its postsecondary persistence patterns and its four- and six-year college graduation rates. These student cohorts are being followed to understand their placement and outcomes in the labor market.
My second research question is focused on learning opportunities for high poverty high school students. This work is focused on policy reform models that stratify learning opportunities for children of poverty in high schools.  Most rigorous research on high schools has focused on evaluating the impact of comprehensive school reform models. Researchers at MDRC have recently completed impact studies of four popular school reform models—Career Academies, First Things First, Project Graduation Really Achieves Dreams (GRAD), and Talent Development—together being implemented in more than 2,700 high schools across the country. These interventions were tested in 16 school districts, using rigorous research methods (i.e., random assignment and comparative time series designs) and the findings suggest that positive change is associated with a combination of instructional improvement and structural changes in school organization and class schedules. They also concluded that transforming schools into small learning communities and assigning students to faculty advisors increased students’ feelings of connectedness to their teachers. In addition to this research, there is considerable less rigorous research examining the relationship between various high school characteristics and student outcomes. For the most part, these studies are correlational and do not allow causal conclusions.  Still they suggest factors and conditions related to secondary school performance and broaden our understanding, at least theoretically, of secondary schools.  Thus, I am following key education policies to further study to how such policies affect the stratification of learning opportunities for high poverty high school students.

Dr. Angela Valenzuela

Photo of Angela ValenzuelaAngela Valenzuela is a professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is also the director of the newly formed Texas Center for Education Policy, a university-wide policy center at the University of Texas at Austin.  A Stanford University graduate, her previous teaching positions were in Sociology at Rice University in Houston, Texas (1990-98), as well as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston (1998-99). Her research and teaching interests are in the sociology of education, minority youth in schools, educational policy, and urban education reform.  She is also the author of Subtractive Schooling:  U.S. Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring (State University of New York Press, 1999) and editor of Leaving Children Behind: How "Texas-style" Accountability Fails Latino Youth (State University of New York Press, 2004).

Dr. Jennifer Jellison Holme

Photo of Jennifer Jellison HolmeDr. Jennifer Jellison Holme is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Administration. Her research agenda is centered on the politics and implementation of educational policy, with two major areas of focus: 1) the implementation of accountability policies, including test-driven accountability measures (exit exams and NCLB) as well as market-driven accountability reforms (charter schools and school choice); and 2) the implementation of policies designed to foster greater equity and diversity in schools, particularly school desegregation policy. Her work has been published in The Harvard Educational Review (2002) and Equity and Excellence in Education (2005). She is currently conducting a study of California’s high schools’ organizational and instructional responses to the state’s exit examination requirement.

Dr. Huriya Jabbar

Photo of Huriya JabbarHuriya Jabbar studies the social and political dimensions of market-based reforms in education, including school choice and incentive pay, and how research on such reforms is used by policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. She has studied the history of teacher incentive pay, the potential contributions of behavioral economics to education policy, the ‘echo chamber’ of citations in research on school vouchers, and the role of private philanthropy and intermediary organizations in public education. Huriya’s dissertation examined school choice and competition in New Orleans using mixed methods, including qualitative interviews, surveys, and statistical analysis of social network data. Specifically, she studied how school leaders perceived and responded to competitive pressures to attract and retain students, and how the local district environments influenced their strategies. This work was supported by a 2013–2014 National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. She is also a current research associate at Era-New Orleans, where she continues to study issues related to school choice, charter schools, and student mobility in New Orleans. In conjunction with Era-New Orleans staff and faculty at the LBJ School, she leads a research group at UT-Austin in which students examine the diversity of schooling options in New Orleans, and ways in which schools market themselves and occupy niches to differentiate themselves in an environment of choice and competition.