Ed Policy Student Lands AERA Grant to Study Changes in School Readiness


Scott Latham, a graduate student in the Education Policy doctoral program, has been awarded a $20,000 Dissertation Grant from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Grants Program.

These funds will support Latham during the coming academic year as he continues to develop his project entitled “Kids today: Did heightened public investment in early childhood lead to changes in school readiness?

Working with his mentor Daphna Bassok, an assistant professor at EdPolicyWorks, Latham will analyze how school readiness has changed over the last decade and a half.

Scott Latham“There has been a ton of recent investment in preschool and other types of early childhood education,” explained Latham, who wants to understand how changes in kindergarten outcomes over time are related to expanded early childhood opportunities.

“We’ve looked at children who entered kindergarten before and after these recent investments, to see whether they have different sets of skills,” said Latham. “And it seems like they do!”

Now Latham and Bassok are beginning to explore whether these changes in children’s skills attribute to the changes in those early childhood investments.

“Scott’s dissertation project leverages large, national datasets to answer important early childhood policy questions but in a novel and creative way.” explained Bassok, who also runs the secured data lab at EdPolicyWorks which houses the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) dataset of two kindergarten cohorts.

Latham will be using data from the original 1998 ECLS-K data along with the newly released data from 2010. Both follow nationally representative samples of students from kindergarten through middle school with data from children, parents, teachers, and school administrators that includes information about children’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.

“This award is really exciting for me because it shows that there is demand for the kind of work I’m interested in,” explained Latham.

As part of this award, Latham will present at the AERA Grantee Conference in Washington, DC in Fall 2014 and an invited poster session at the 2015 AERA Annual Meeting.

“I’m particularly excited for the Grantee Conference, which is a unique opportunity to connect with people across the country who are doing interesting work with large scale data,” said Latham.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the AERA Dissertation Grants Competition provides funds to stimulate research on U.S. education issues that have U.S. education policy relevance using data from the large-scale, national and international data sets.

“I think the AERA Grants Program will provide a really wonderful professional development opportunity for Scott,” added Bassok. “We are grateful for the support.”

Latham is also a pre-doctoral fellow in the Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) program sponsored by the Institute of Educational Sciences.

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EdPolicyWorks is a joint collaboration between the Curry School of Education and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. EdPolicyWorks brings together researchers from across the University of Virginia and the State to focus on important questions of educational policy and implications for the workforce.