About Us

Click a researcher's picture or name to view his/her bio.

Principal Investigators

  • Susan Dynarski
  • Brian A. Jacob
  • Kenneth Frank
  • Barbara Schneider

Susan Dynarski
Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Professor of Education, School of Education
Co-director of the Education Policy Initiatve
University of Michigan

Susan Dynarski is a professor of public policy, education and economics at the University of Michigan, where she holds appointments at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, School of Education, Department of Economics and Institute for Social Research. She is a Faculty Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment. She is a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. Dynarski earned an A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard, a Master of Public Policy from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Economics from MIT.

Dynarski has been a Visiting Fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Princeton University as well as an associate professor at Harvard University. She has been an editor of The Journal of Labor Economics and Education Finance and Policy and is currently on the board of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. She has been elected to the boards of the Association for Public Policy and Management and the Association for Education Finance and Policy. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators awarded her the Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award for excellence in research on student aid.

Dynarski has testified about education and tax policy before the US Senate Finance Committee, the US House Ways and Means Committee and the President's Commission on Tax Reform.


Brian A. Jacob
Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy
Professor of Economics, University of Michigan
Co-director of the Education Policy Initaitve

Brian Jacob is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy, Professor of Economics, co-director of the Education Policy Initiative, and past director of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He is a faculty research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an executive committee member of the National Poverty Center. His current research focuses on urban school reform and teacher labor markets; other recent work examines school choice, education accountability programs, and housing vouchers. Jacob has extensive analytic experience using regression discontinuity methodology, and has also has studied high school graduation requirements.

Jacob holds a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Chicago and an AB magna cum laude in Social Studies from Harvard University.


Kenneth Frank
Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education
College of Education at Michigan State University

Kenneth Frank is a professor of measurement and quantitative methods at the College of Education at Michigan State University. His substantive interests include the study of schools as organizations, how teachers influence one another to affect classroom practices and school decision-making, social networks, and the social context of learning. His substantive areas are linked to several methodological interests: social network analysis, hierarchical linear modeling, cluster analysis, multidimensional scaling, log-linear and logit models, simultaneous equation models and time series models. Frank’s publications include new quantitative methods for representing relations among teachers and how those relations affect teachers' orientations to teaching, the characteristics of schools that affect teachers' orientations to teaching, and ways in which actors generate social capital from their social relations.

Frank holds a PhD in Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistical Analysis from the University of Chicago Department of Education; an MA in Higher and Adult Continuing Education from the University of Michigan School of Education; and a BA in Statistics and English from the University of Michigan.


Barbara Schneider
Hannah Distinguished Professor
Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education
College of Education, Michigan State University

Barbara Schneider is the John A. Hannah Chair and Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology at MSU. She is the principal investigator of the College Ambition Program (CAP), a study that tests a model for promoting a STEM college-going culture in two high schools that encourages adolescents to pursue STEM majors in college and occupations in these fields. She worked for 18 years at University of Chicago, holding positions as a professor in Sociology and Human Development and senior researcher at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC). She remains a senior fellow at NORC, where she is the principal investigator of the Center for Advancing Research and Communication in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. She uses a sociological lens to understand societal conditions and interpersonal interactions that create norms and values that enhance human and social capital. Her research focuses on how the social contexts of schools and families influence the academic and social well being of adolescents as they move into adulthood.

Professor Schneider has published 15 books and over 100 articles and reports on family, social context of schooling, and sociology of knowledge. She recently was the editor of Sociology of Education.

Schneider holds a PhD from Northwestern University, and an MS and BS from National Louis University.


  • Tom Howell
  • Venessa Keesler

Tom Howell
Director of the Center for Educational Performance and Information
Michigan Department of Education

Thomas Howell is director for the State of Michigan's Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI). CEPI collects, connects and improves public education data for Michigan's PK-12 community, and is leading efforts to connect data from preschool through postsecondary education and into the workforce. Howell is responsible for directing CEPI's efforts as they relate to individual student and staff data, school finance and safety data, and other data collection and feedback efforts. He is also responsible for the implementation of the state's education longitudinal data system, and coordinates overall policy, planning and administrative efforts at CEPI.

Howell earned a master of public policy and planning from Western Michigan University and a BA in business administration from Central Michigan University.


Venessa Keesler is Deputy Superintendent of Education Services at the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The Education Services division includes offices and programs that oversee state content standards and instruction, school improvement, state and federal programs, career and technical education, and services for the state's lowest performing schools. Venessa previously served as Director of the Office of Evaluation, Strategic Research, and Accountability at the MDE and as a classroom teacher in Massachusetts, teaching seventh-grade social studies. Venessa holds a Bachelor's degree in sociology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in measurement and quantitative methods from Michigan State University.


Affiliated Researchers:

  • Steven Hemelt
  • Nathaniel Schwartz

Steven Hemelt is assistant professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Prior to joining the faculty at UNC, Hemelt was an IES postdoctoral research fellow at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. His fields of interest include education policy, economics of education, labor economics, and program evaluation.

In one strand of current research, Hemelt is examining the effects of different policies or programs on students' performance in high school, transition into college, and longer-run college outcomes (e.g., persistence, credit accumulation, and graduation). In a second line of work, he is exploring the impacts of K-12 accountability structures, consequences, and supports on a variety of student outcomes. In the past, Hemelt has studied the impacts of failure to make "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on subsequent student achievement, the effects of additional learning time on student performance, and the usefulness of college double majors in the labor market.

Hemelt earned his PhD in Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). He holds a master and undergraduate degree in economics and a bachelor degree in Spanish.

UNC Website: http://hemelt.web.unc.edu

Nathaniel Schwartz is the director of research and policy at the Tennessee Department of Education. His primary research interests include large-scale instructional intervention, teacher accountability, and student mobility. Dr. Schwartz earned his PhD from the University of Michigan's School of Education, his MPP from the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy, and his BA from Harvard College. Previously, he taught high school science through Teach For America in the Mississippi Delta and served as a founding teacher for the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago.