About the Pre-Doctoral Training Program in Education Sciences

Promoting Educational Equity at Scale

With funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, the Committee on Education at the University of Chicago is launching a new predoctoral fellowship program aimed at using research to promote educational equity at scale. We seek ambitious candidates who wish to acquire the research skills and applied training that will enable them to contribute to narrowing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic opportunity and achievement gaps in education.

Inequality of opportunity to learn is the most fundamental problem facing US education. The educational disruptions caused by the current COVID-19 crisis have magnified this problem, posing an urgent challenge to school districts serving predominately low-income and minority students. The IES Pre-Doctoral Training Program in Education Sciences will engage Fellows in a partnership with the Chicago Public Schools and other local partners to provide evidence-based foundations for addressing these urgent challenges.

Each pre-doctoral fellow earns a PhD in a social science discipline or from a professional school at the University while participating in a common program of courses, workshops, and a 2-year research-practice partnership focusing on. These experiences will prepare students to contribute to bringing research to bear on the enactment of an ambitious five-year plan for improvement devised by the Chicago Public Schools

An Interdisciplinary Community

This program offers students an opportunity to join a diverse, interdisciplinary community collaborating to better understand how to increase the coherence and effectiveness of interventions to reduce educational inequality. This program draws on the expertise of world-class faculty and practitioners from diverse disciplines across the University. It is therefore an ideal opportunity for students interested in combining methodologically rigorous social science inquiry with the multidisciplinary and creative thinking necessary for using research to improve public schooling. We seek students who are diverse in disciplinary orientation, personal background and experience to join this collective effort.

Prospective students must apply and be accepted to a full-time doctoral program in a relevant social science discipline or from a participating professional school. See below for information on how to apply to this program.

Intellectual Rationale

Inequality in educational opportunity and outcomes is created over the course of childhood and adolescence through the cumulative effects of environmental experiences that occur at home and at school. As such, it is not possible to overcome the challenge of educational inequality by a list of unrelated interventions, no matter how effective each is by itself over the short term.

It follows that any serious attempt to significantly increase opportunity for historically disadvantaged children and youth must mobilize the most important adults in a child’s life to act effectively and in concert toward common aims. Each intervention must therefore build on the success of interventions at earlier stages of development and create a foundation for the success of later interventions. These sources of coherence appear to be crucial to address the challenge of overcoming the multiple disadvantages that face many less-privileged youth.

Our program focuses on creating coherence in interventions across two axes. We say that a set of interventions is contextually coherent if, in combination, they mobilize the most important adults in a child’s life to act effectively and in concert toward common aims; and that such a set of interventions is cumulatively coherent if an intervention at one stage of child development builds on the success of past interventions and creates a foundation for the success of later interventions.

The fact that successful, cumulative educational interventions require an understanding of multiple kinds of challenges to disadvantaged youth today is what grounds our Pre-Doctoral Program’s focus on mobilizing interdisciplinary knowledge in support of local school improvement. Our Committee on Education faculty in the Departments of Psychology and Comparative Human Development are internationally known experts on how children learn to speak, read, write and reason mathematically, at home and at school, even as they learn how to regulate their behavior and interact effectively with diverse others. Our faculty in the Departments of Sociology, Comparative Human Development, and in the School of Social Service Administration know a great deal about the work of teaching and how school organization can support that work. Our faculty in the Department of Economics and the Harris School of Public Policy are widely recognized experts in how policies generate incentives for teachers and students and how inequality in access to information drives inequality of outcomes as parents and students make choices about where to go to school. To build a coherent research agenda that can change lives requires that students and faculty possessing these sources of expertise join together to evaluate the theoretical foundations of proposed interventions and the evidentiary claims of new findings.

Course Requirements

Fellows are required to take courses in human development, schooling, and educational policy in addition to rigorous sequence of courses in statistical methods.

Development and Schooling
Each fellow must take at least two from among the following electives on human development and schooling:
1. Seminar on Environmental Effects on Cognitive Growth
2. Seminar on Mathematical Development
3. Learning, Cognition and the Classroom
4. Urban Adolescents in Their Families, Communities, and Schools; Issues for Research and Policy
5. Race/ Ethnicity, Human Development, and Schooling

Educational Policy
Each fellow must take the “Seminar on Effective and Coherent Interventions to Reduce Educational Inequality.”

Methodological Requirements
Each fellow must take “Causal Inference in Educational Studies.” In addition, each fellow must at least four courses in statistical design and analysis. Doctoral level courses in the disciplines of Economics, Public Policy, Political Science, or Sociology will satisfy these requirements.

We also strongly recommend the following courses:
1. Applications of Hierarchical Linear Models in Educational Research
2. Applied Econometrics
3. Applied Econometrics II
4. Social Experiments: Design and Generalization
5. Survey Methodology
6. Longitudinal Data Analysis
7. Causal Inference
8. Mediation Analysis

Field Placement Opportunities

Every Pre-Doctoral fellow will have a field placement at a site of practice that focuses on educational interventions in Chicago-area schools. Participating partners in practice include the Chicago Public Schools, the Geminus Center, which operates Head Start in Northwest Indiana, and the Chicago Heights Public Schools. These placements will typically be facilitated by the Chicago Consortium on School Research, the Urban Ed Labs, Chicago Science of Learning Center, or the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, which operates four schools on the South Side of Chicago.

Chicago Education Workshop

All fellows will attend the weekly Chicago Education Workshop, a forum for collegial discussion of education research that will focus specifically on what is known and what needs to be known to reach achievement goals in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). By reading and critiquing important studies relevant to the CPS priorities, and by re-analyzing the data these studies produce, students will gain deep expertise about current educational research while creating the context for key conversations between scholars and practitioners.

Once each quarter, the workshop will welcome officials from CPS, the Chicago Heights Public Schools, the Geminus Head Start Program of Northern Indiana, and other practitioners. At these special workshops, a CPS representative will present one of the five key priorities in the five-year plan. A team of fellows will then present a policy brief summarizing one or more studies relevant to the priority. The ensuing discussion will enable our scholars and practitioners evaluate the validity and utility of the study and consider implications for policy and further research.

Funding and Benefits

Fellows in this program receive a five-year package of support that includes a full tuition waiver and a generous stipend of at least $34,000 annually and fringe benefits. Additional funds are available to support travel and research related to education research.

How to Apply

Students must apply and be accepted to a full-time doctoral program at the University of Chicago in the Division of the Social Sciences, the Harris School of Public Policy, or the School of Social Service Administration in order to be eligible for the Pre-Doctoral Training Program. Decisions about students’ admission to the Pre-Doctoral Training Program are made at the same time as students’ admissions to their doctoral programs.

Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States to receive funding through the training program. Fellows must conduct independent research as well as a dissertation related to education.

Students interested in this program should fill out this brief expression of interest form at their earliest convenience.

Deadline: The review process for this Fellowship begins on December 1, 2020 and ends April 15, 2021. The application form for this program can be found here. Please submit our brief expression of interest form before beginning your full application for the fellowship program.

We also recommend that students first apply to their respective doctoral programs before completing the fellowship application. Our participating departments and professional schools have the following application deadlines:

Participating Departments in the Division of the Social Sciences:

Comparative Human Development: December 15, 2020
Economics: December 15, 2020
Political Science: December 15, 2020
Psychology: December 1, 2020
Sociology: December 1, 2020

Harris School of Public Policy: January 6, 2021

School of Social Service Administration: December 15, 2020

 

Contact

Students who are interested in the program should contact Lisa Rosen (rosen@uchicago.edu), Program Recruitment Director and Committee on Education Associate Director.