PhD Candidate Jessica Alzen Awarded Inaugural AERA-MET Dissertation Fellowship

August 18, 2014

Jessica Alzen, a PhD candidate in the Research and Evaluation Methodology (REM) program, was recently awarded a highly competitive fellowship from the American Educational Research Association's (AERA) inaugural Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Dissertation Fellowship Program. The program supports dissertation-stage graduate students who use data from the MET project–which investigated multiple methods for identifying effective teachers–to address research questions that will contribute to knowledge about teaching and learning.

AERA-MET fellows receive a stipend up to $20,000 to support their research. Together with MET experts, fellows attend a fall 2014 doctoral research conference in Washington, D.C. as well as a research institute and capstone conference at the AERA annual meeting in spring 2015.

Jessica's dissertation, titled "Investigating the Sensitivity of Teacher Classifications Based on Multiple Measures to Value-Added Model Specification," will use value-added (VA) estimates on two mathematics assessments and a mathematics-specific observation protocol from the MET study to classify four groups of teachers with convergent or divergent ratings on these measures.

As Jessica explains, "One goal is to understand how these classifications change as a function of the covariates included in two VA model specifications. The first specification 'overcorrects' for contextual variables; the second 'undercorrects.' Classroom videos will be analyzed to explore potential differences in practices between teachers whose classifications change and those whose classifications remain the same under both models. A key question of interest is whether the teaching practices that are observed will be qualitatively distinguishable. If there is evidence of differences between classroom practices, this will add to the body of knowledge regarding necessary considerations when choosing among covariates to be included in a VA model. As more and more states are adopting multiple measures for evaluating teachers, including VA models, analysis such as this is vital for making informed decisions about teacher accountability."

Jessica Alzen