Thursday, March 26, 2020

#2020APPAM Submission Deadline Extended

APPAM is extending the deadline to April 24th, in an attempt to provide extra time to prepare proposals, considering the public health context.


Spencer Foundation Lecture: Education and Economic Mobility: What Have We Learned?

Alexandria Hurtt
Ph.D. Student, School of Education, University of California, Davis

Susan Dynarski, a professor of public policy, education, and economics at the University of Michigan and co-director of the University’s Education Policy initiative, was honored with the Spencer Foundation Award this afternoon at the 2017 APPAM Fall Research Conference. Awarded biennially, the Spencer Foundation Lecture recognizes noteworthy contributions through research and analysis in the field of education policy and management, highlighting the impact of her research on charter school effectiveness, student financial aid, the price elasticity of private school attendance, and the relationship between higher education and labor market outcomes.

Dynarski’s lecture, entitled “Education and Economic Mobility: What Have We Learned?” was the “story of [her] research,” the core of which centered on the uneven gains between students from differing financial backgrounds. This difference simply widens at the postsecondary level, where children of rich families are six times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree. She noted that education is one of the “key fault lines” in the determinacy of one’s future, and understanding the impact of financial aid policies and the resources they provide students at multiple levels is critical to improving access for low-income and first-generation college students.

Dynarski also encouraged those in attendance to consider the value of disseminating research beyond the academic sphere. “Sometimes good research is buried in academic journals,” she related, noting that some of her “proudest articles” are not in high-ranking journals. With a visible online presence as well as a regular contributor to The Upshot from The New York Times, Dynarski discussed not only what this could look like, but proffered advice on how one could get started.

The lecture was followed by reactions from Lashawn Richburg-Hayes from Insight Policy Research and Judith Scott-Clayton from Columbia University, who highlighted the tenets of Dynarski’s work and also considered the questions her work exposes, including the emerging gap between college access and college completion.

The session ended with questions from the audience, which Dynarski navigated with the vivacious humor and grace that characterized her lecture. She noted her hopes for the future of education, the complexities of the policy process, as well as offered tips for doctoral students on how to build credibility in the public sphere. Dynarski also explained that while research overall can be challenging, one has to ultimately “keep going” and not be discouraged by null results. “Your research is important,” she insisted. “Keep asking questions that matter. Keep speaking truth to power.”

To learn more about Dynarski and her research visit her website,, or follow her on Twitter @dynarski.


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