About the Graduate IES Program

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 launched a new predoctoral fellowship program aimed at using research to promote educational equity at scale. 

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 from a participating social science discipline or professional school at the University while participating in a common program of courses, workshops, and a 2-year field placement with a participating research-practice partnership in the education field. 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

Quick Links
Who Is Eligible?

Prospective PhD students applying to these departments and schools are eligible to apply concurrently to the IES Pre-Doctoral Training Program:

Within the Division of the Social Sciences:
Department of Psychology
Department of Economics
Department of Political Science
Department of Comparative Human Development
Department of Sociology

Professional Schools:
Harris School of Public Policy
Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

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 Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice 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.

Click here for more information about courses that can be used to fulfill these requirements.

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 institutions and sites of practice include:
UChicago Consortium on School Research
UChicago Urban Labs
UChicago Science of Learning Center
Urban Education Institute
Chicago Heights Public Schools
The Geminus Center, which operates Head Start in Northwest
Start Early, a public-private partnership focusing on early
childhood development

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.


Recruitment for this program is now closed. Prospective doctoral students at the University with a interest in education research should contact Dr. Lisa Rosen (rosen@uchicago.edu), Committee on Education Associate Director to learn more about other opportunities to participate in our research.