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Meet New SETH Professor Jennifer Steele

Jennifer Steele

Jennifer Steele is a new associate professor in the School of Education, Teaching, and Health.

EdD in administration, planning, and social policy, Harvard University
MA in education, Stanford University
MA in English, Georgetown University
BA in psychology and English, Georgetown University

Areas of Research

Teacher and school leader effectiveness; dual-language immersion education; competency-based and technology-enhanced education; transitions to postsecondary education

What initially sparked your interest in education?
Early in my career, I taught in a private, suburban elementary school and a public, urban high school, and I trained teachers for a supplemental education services company. I became very interested in ways that students’ experiences in school shape their choices and opportunities. What drew me into research was the observation that policy decisions made without a strong evidence base can do more harm than good. It’s critical that policy be guided by rigorous analysis of good data. My passion lies in conducting research that sheds light on what works, and in helping policymakers and practitioners become informed consumers of research.

What honed your interest to your specific areas of research?
I’m coming to AU from six years at the RAND Corporation, so I’ve been able to do research on a wide array of education policy topics. Right now, I’m leading an Institute of Education Sciences-funded study of dual-language immersion education in Portland, Oregon. I came to this interest through conversations with the language policy community, including Dr. Robert Slater (PhD SIS ’75) at the American Councils for International Education, who co-leads the project. It has become a passion project because access to dual-language education is still quite limited in the United States and is very unequally distributed. If we find that students randomized to these programs in kindergarten perform better in school overall than those randomized to English-only instruction, it raises the question of how we can spread these programs and what it would cost to do so. With that question in mind, we are documenting not only the causal impact of immersion on learning, but also what these programs cost and what is required logistically to implement them.

What brought you to AU?

AU has four features that attracted me: a vibrant faculty; a university-wide emphasis on public policy; a strong commitment to serving the District of Columbia, including partnerships with local schools, The New Teacher Project, Teach for America, and CityYear; and a dedication to the preparation of undergraduate and master’s degree students. When I was at RAND, I was lucky to work with several recent graduates of the School of Education, Teaching, and Health, and it was clear that they had received a great education. In joining AU, I am thrilled to have a chance to help prepare the next generation of educators and education policy leaders.

What are you hoping to accomplish at AU?
Beyond continuing the work on immersion education, I have a few other near-term goals. First, I want to ensure that SETH students receive a strong grounding in the use of data that will prepare them to make important decisions in education policy and practice. Second, I want to build local partnerships focused on facilitating students’ transitions between secondary and postsecondary education. Third, a portion of my research has focused on the transition of military veterans into postsecondary education, and I’m hoping to work with the Dean of Students’ Office to learn more about that transition process for student veterans at AU.