Project Leadership

University of Colorado Boulder

Bill Penuel

Bill Penuel, Principal Investigator

William R. Penuel is professor of Educational Psychology and Learning Sciences in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. His research sits at the intersection of learning sciences and policy. He studies the design, implementation, efficacy, and sustainability of efforts to improve science and mathematics education. He has explored how participatory design, professional development, curriculum, and teachers’ collegial interactions support improvement efforts. Recent projects have examined the efficacy of project-based curricula in science, how teachers’ assistance to colleagues can augment the
effects of professional development, and how research-practice partnerships facilitate use of research among district leaders. He is co-principal investigator of the Research+Practice Collaboratory, which is developing and testing new approaches for relating research and practice more productively.

He is editor of two recent volumes on educational research methodologies (Learning Research as a Human Science, 2010, with Kevin O’Connor; Design-Based Implementation Research, 2013, with Barry Fishman, Anna-Ruth Allen, and Britte Haugan Cheng) and numerous journal articles and book chapters.

Derek Briggs

Derek Briggs, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Briggs is professor of Research and Evaluation Methodology in the School of Education at the University of Colorado Boulder. His research agenda focuses upon building sound methodological approaches for the measurement and evaluation of growth in student learning. His daily agenda is to challenge conventional wisdom and methodological chicanery as they manifest themselves in educational research, policy and practice. He has a special interest in the use of learning progressions as a method for facilitating student-level inferences about growth, and helping to bridge the use of test scores for formative and summative purposes. Other interests include critical analyses of the statistical models used to make causal inferences about the effects of teachers, schools and other educational interventions on student achievement.

Caitlin Farrell

Caitlin Farrell, Project Director

Caitlin Farrell is director of the National Center of Research in Policy and Practice (NCRPP). She specializes in research on policy implementation and K–12 educational reform, with a particular focus on organizational theory. She uses qualitative methods to explore the links between educational policy and the conditions that foster successful reform, e.g., examining evidence use at the classroom, school, and system levels and the implementation and effects of alternate governance structures, such as charter schools and charter management organizations. Prior to joining NCRPP, she served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied research-practice partnerships between school districts and research organizations. Earlier, she was an elementary school teacher in the New York and Washington, DC public school systems. She holds a bachelor of arts from Dartmouth College, a master of science in teaching from Pace University, and a doctor of philosophy in urban education policy from the University of Southern California.

Harvard University

Jon Fullerton

Jon Fullerton, Co-Principal Investigator

Jon Fullerton is the executive director of the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University. Fullerton has extensive experience working with policymakers and executives in designing and implementing organizational change and improvements. Before coming to Harvard, Fullerton served as the Board of Education’s director of budget and financial policy for the Los Angeles Unified School District. In this capacity, he provided independent evaluations of district reforms and helped to ensure that the district’s budget was aligned with board priorities.

From 2002 to 2005 he was vice-president of Strategy, Evaluation, Research, and Policy at the Urban Education Partnership in Los Angeles, where he worked with policymakers to ensure that they focused on high impact educational strategies. Fullerton also worked for six years at McKinsey & Company as a strategy consultant and senior practice expert in education. He has a PhD in government and an AB in social studies, both from Harvard.

Heather Hill

Heather Hill, Co-Principal Investigator

Heather C. Hill is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her primary work focuses on teacher and teaching quality and the effects of policies aimed at improving both. She is also known for developing instruments for measuring teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) and the mathematical quality of instruction (MQI) within classrooms. She is co-director of the National Center for Teacher Effectiveness (NCTE) and principal investigator of a five-year study examining the effects of Marilyn Burns Math Solutions professional development on teaching and learning.   Her other interests include knowledge use within the public sector and the role that language plays in the implementation of public policy. She has served as section chairs for the American Educational Research Association and Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness conferences, and on the editorial boards of Journal of Research in Mathematics Education and the American Educational Research Journal. She is co-author, with David K. Cohen, of Learning Policy: When State Education Reform Works (Yale Press, 2001).

Northwestern University

Cynthia Coburn

Cynthia Coburn, Co-Principal Investigator

Cynthia E. Coburn is professor at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. She specializes in policy implementation, the relationship between research and practice, data use, and scale up of innovation. She has studied research use in schools and districts since 2002, including co-directing a six-year cross-case study of innovative approaches that reconfigured the relationship between research and practice for educational improvement (with Mary Kay Stein) and a study of research-practice partnerships in three urban districts (with William Penuel). Coburn has received numerous awards for her scholarship, including the Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association in recognition of her achievements in the first decade of her career.

Jim Spillane

Jim Spillane, Co-Principal Investigator

James P. Spillane is the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. He is also professor of Human Development and Social Policy, professor of Learning Sciences, professor of Management and Organizations, and faculty associate at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. Spillane has published extensively on issues of education policy, policy implementation, school reform, and school leadership. His work explores the policy implementation process at the state, district, school, and classroom levels, focusing on intergovernmental and policy-practice relations. He also studies organizational leadership and change, conceptualizing organizational leadership as a distributed practice.

Recent projects include studies of relations between organizational infrastructure and instructional advice-seeking in schools and the socialization of new school principals. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, the Spencer Foundation, and Carnegie Corporation of New York. He has authored several books including Standards Deviation: How Local Schools Misunderstand Policy (Harvard University Press, 2004), Distributed Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2006), Distributed Leadership in Practice (Teachers College Press, 2007), Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement (Teachers College Press, 2011), and numerous journal articles and book chapters. 

Project Staff

University of Colorado Boulder

Anna-Ruth Allen

Anna-Ruth Allen, Research Associate

Anna-Ruth Allen is a research associate at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research has focused on learning sciences, youth development, and understanding and supporting relationships between research and practice. She has conducted qualitative studies of learning in educational contexts in and out of schools, as well as research-practice partnerships in urban districts (with Bill Penuel, Cynthia Coburn, and Caitlin Farrell). She is co-editor of an NSSE volume on Design-Based Implementation Research (2013), with Bill Penuel, Barry Fishman, and Britte Haugan Cheng.

Kristen Davidson

Kristen Davidson, Postdoctoral Fellow

Kristen Davidson is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder. She primarily investigates how consequential education policies play out in districts, schools, and communities, with central attention to advancing an equitable, democratic educational system. She has conducted research on parental choice of schools, family and community engagement, public scholarship, community dialogues, and assessment practices. Kristen earned her PhD in Educational Foundations, Policy and Practice at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Harvard University

Corinne Herlihy

Corinne Herlihy, Project Director, CEPR

Corinne Herlihy is the director of research operations for the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR). She oversees the day-to-day operations of CEPR studies and the corresponding research agenda. Previously, Corinne was the project director for the National Center for Teacher Effectiveness (NCTE) at CEPR. She served as a primary liaison with the research team and the districts involved in the core study of developing measures of effective math teaching, and coordinated outside vendors employed in the service of the research.

Prior to joining CEPR, Corinne was a senior research associate and deputy director of the K12 policy area at MDRC, a nonprofit research organization. At MDRC, Corinne directed a study of small schools of choice in New York City that capitalized on naturally occurring experiments in student assignment data; directed the Boost-Up Math project which resulted in a feasibility report with design options for evaluating supplemental ninth-grade math programs; managed MDRC’s analysis work on the National Reading First Impact Study; was a lead author on evaluations of the Talent Development High School and Talent Development Middle School models; and co-authored Foundations for Success: Case Studies of How Urban School Systems Improve Student Achievement. Corinne earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was a teacher of middle and high school mathematics.

Northwestern University

Christopher Harrison

Christopher Harrison, Postdoctoral Fellow

Chris Harrison is a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. His research interests include the politics of education, practitioners’ use of student performance data, and district processes for implementing and scaling programs and practices. Before joining NCRPP, Chris worked with the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools, where he conducted research and worked in partnership with a variety of practitioners as they developed educational innovations.​

Alice Huguet

Alice Huguet, Postdoctoral Fellow

Alice Huguet is a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. Alice’s research interests are rooted in her experience as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles, and examine the social and organizational dynamics that influence policy implementation. Her research includes qualitative investigations of data-use practices, teacher evaluation programs, school leadership, and interorganizational relationships. Alice received her PhD in Urban Education Policy from the University of Southern California in 2015.

Natalie Jou

Natalie Jou, Project Coordinator, School of Education and Social Policy

Natalie received her BA in Psychology and Spanish from Lake Forest College in 2010. She worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Chicago for three years, helping to coordinate research on the development of math, reading, and spatial skills in elementary school and the various cognitive, social, and affective factors that impact the development of those skills. Natalie joined Northwestern University in January 2015 as Project Coordinator for Cynthia Coburn.

Debbie Kim

Debbie Kim, Postdoctoral Fellow

Debbie Kim is a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. Her research interests are at the intersection of education policy and institutional theory. Using an institutional theory lens, she studies the ways macro-level processes take form at the micro-level. Currently, she is studying the ways ideas such as equity or accountability become packaged in policy, disseminated via policy messages, and shape practices at the local level. Debbie received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University.

Lok-Sze Wong

Lok-Sze Wong, Postdoctoral Fellow

Lok-Sze Wong is a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. Her research interests are at the intersection of poverty and schooling, specifically efforts to improve instruction and its management through systemic reforms. Currently, she is studying practitioners’ professional learning opportunities within efforts to implement system reforms, such as MTSS/RtI. She also studies organizational learning in schools, districts, and other educational organizations. Lok-Sze received her Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Leadership from the University of Michigan.

Graduate Students

Harvard University

David Sherer

David Sherer, EdD Student, Education Policy, Leadership, and Instructional Practice

David Sherer is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He specializes in research on policy implementation and the social dynamics of K-12 school reform. He is particularly interested in the role of educators’ social networks in reform efforts and the conditions that foster productive collaboration among teachers, principals, and district administrators. Before beginning his doctoral work, David was a research analyst at SRI International’s Center for Education Policy, where he studied high school reform, leadership development, and the teacher workforce.

Those interactions may take place when district leaders deliberate, when they attempt to persuade colleagues to a course of action or when researchers and practitioners collaborate on important problems of practice.

Bill Penuel, University of Colorado Boulder