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Campus Map
Explore the beautiful campus of Vanderbilt University. More...
Meet the academic scholars prior to the conference. More...
The conference papers will be published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates in an edited volume for public dissemination next year. You may read the first version of the conference papers online. More...

Charter Schools: What Fosters Growth and Outcomes?
The National Center on School Choice is hosting a national conference on charter school research for academic researchers and policymakers. The conference will be held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee from September 28-29, 2006. More...

The National Research and Development Center on School Choice welcomes a distinguished set of academic researchers from the nation's leading universities and research centers to the National Conference on Charter School Research.

DALE BALLOU, Vanderbilt University

Dale Ballou is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University. He currently serves as Associate Director of the National Research and Development Center on School Choice. His research interests concern the role of regulations and incentives in the training, recruitment, and retention of effective teachers, as well as the assessment of school and teacher effectiveness and the use of assessments in systems of sanctions and rewards.

Prior to completing his doctoral studies, Professor Ballou spent several years teaching in a variety of settings, including a middle school in Indiana, an adult education center in New Haven, Connecticut, and a private boarding school in Massachusetts. He taught in the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 1989 to 1992. As an economist, his research has focused on policies affecting education reform, particularly the role of incentives and regulation in the training, recruitment, and retention of teachers. His work has appeared in professional economics journals and publications for a broader audience such as The Public Interest and Education Week.

Professor Ballou has testified before the United States House of Representatives on education issues and has advised the Massachusetts State Legislature and Massachusetts Board of Higher Education on policies related to school financing, teacher licensure, and teacher compensation. His recent projects deal with personnel policies in charter schools, teacher testing, and the role of unions in education reform.

MARK BERENDS, Vanderbilt University

Mark Berends is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University. He currently serves as Director of the National Research and Development Center on School Choice, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Throughout his research career, Professor Berends has focused on how the organization of schools and classroom instruction are related to student achievement, with special attention to disadvantaged students. Within this research agenda, he has applied a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to understand the effects of various school reforms on teachers and students. For example, Professor Berends led the summative evaluation of the New American Schools (NAS) whole-school reform effort in various districts across the United States. At the time, NAS was the largest privately funded reform effort aimed at developing "break the mold" schools to promote student achievement in urban settings. Although key findings have been published in several of his books and articles, the overall finding was that a great deal of further development of the reform models and careful alignment of the school system needed to take place to promote innovative instructional strategies and gains in student achievement.

Due to his research on NAS, the U.S. Department of Education requested his participation in the national evaluation of Title I and of the Comprehensive School Reform programs. Alongside these evaluations, he examined the relationships of changing families and schools on student achievement between 1972 and 2004 to better understand how these changes during different periods of reform relate to the black-white and Latino-white achievement gaps. A key outcome of this work was that secondary school curriculum differentiation (tracking) became more flexible for black and Latino students, which was one of the factors associated with the closing of the achievement gap. Relying on experimental and quasi-experimental designs, his current research and evaluation projects focus on the effects of school choice (e.g., charter and magnet schools) on student achievement growth and on the scaling-up of a peer-assisted learning strategies program and early reading achievement. Using survey and observational methods to understand the instructional conditions within these choice and reading programs plays a prominent role in these various projects.

, University of Connecticut

Robert Bifulco has a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Dr. Bifulco is currently on faculty in the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy where he teaches classes in education policy, state and local government finance, and program evaluation. Before coming to the University of Connecticut, Dr. Bifulco held a post-doc position at Duke University's Sanford Institute of Public Policy. He has also worked as a program analyst in the New York State Education Department, where he helped formulate regulations governing the state's low-performing schools program. He has research interests in the areas of school finance, performance-based accountability, school segregation, and school choice. He has published research articles on the measurement of school performance, whole-school reform, and racial disparities in access to educational resources in several peer-reviewed journals including The Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Evaluation Review, and Economics of Education Review. His most recent research is focused on charter schools and has examined their effects on student achievement, black-white test score gaps, racial segregation, and parental involvement. Dr. Bifulco is an active member of the American Education Finance Association and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

DOMINIC J. BREWER, University of Southern California

Dominic Brewer is Professor of Education and Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California, where he also co-directs the Center on Educational Governance. Prior to joining the USC faculty in 2005, Dr. Brewer was a Vice President at RAND, where he directed the education policy research program for more than five years. Dr. Brewer is a labor economist (Ph.D., Cornell University) specializing in education policy. He has overseen major projects focusing on educational productivity and teacher issues in both K-12 and higher education, and published more than 50 journal articles, books, book chapters and monographs. He co-led the state-sponsored evaluation of California’s charter schools (Charter School Operations and Performance: Evidence from California, 2003), and is one of the authors of Rhetoric Versus Reality: What We Know and What We Need to Know About Vouchers and Charter Schools (2001). Dr. Brewer most recently spearheaded RAND’s effort to assist in major K-12 reform in the State of Qatar, the centerpiece of which is a system of charter-like government funded schools. He is a member of the Charter School Research Consensus Panel at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington.

, RAND Corporation

Richard Buddin is a senior labor economist at the RAND Corporation, a Professor of Economics in the RAND Graduate School, as well as a Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Buddin has conducted several studies on school choice. Dr. Buddin recently completed a series of papers on student achievement in charter schools. In an earlier study, Dr. Buddin examined the theoretical and empirical issues associated with an educational voucher system. The study examined what factors affect the private/public choice in the absence of vouchers and then anticipated how a voucher system would alter those choices. Dr. Buddin is currently leading a four-year project sponsored by the Department of Education on whether scores on teacher licensure tests are a valid measure of teacher effectiveness.

Dr. Buddin has recently completed work on two studies of educational finance issues. He conducted a two-year evaluation of the so-called "Impact Aid" program that provides federal funding to local school districts to offset a portion of the educational expenses of the children of military members. The analysis examines the equity of the federal funding formula and compares the educational opportunities of military children with those of their civilian counterparts. In another study, Dr. Buddin examined employer-sponsored programs to provide tuition assistance for employees enrolled in college programs. The study examined what types of employees used tuition assistance and whether program users were more likely than non-users to remain with the firm.

ELLEN GOLDRING, Vanderbilt University

Ellen Goldring is a professor of education policy and leadership at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Professor Goldring's research interests reside in two main areas. One strand centers on understanding and shaping school reform efforts that connect families, communities, and schools with a focus on school choice. Her research addresses questions about access and equity including how parents choose, why parents choose and teaching and learning conditions. Much of her other scholarly work focuses on the changing role of school leaders as the organizational contexts for schools become more complex and varied. She studies the features of schools and leadership that affect leadership effectiveness. She is currently involved in a number of projects that are studying expertise in school leadership, leadership assessment and evaluation, new models for professional development for school leaders, and linking leading and learning.

JAMES W. GUTHRIE, Vanderbilt University

James Guthrie is a professor of public policy and education, chair of the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, and director of the Peabody Center for Education Policy at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. He instructs both undergraduate and graduate courses, and conducts research on education policy and finance. He also is the founder and chairman of the board of Management Analysis & Planning, Inc. (MAP), a private sector management consulting firm specializing in public finance and litigation support. MAP offices are located in Davis, California.

Previously a professor at the University of California, Berkeley for 27 years, he holds a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Stanford University, and undertook postdoctoral study in public finance at Harvard. He also was a postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford Brookes College, Oxford, England, and the Irving R. Melbo Visiting Professor at the University of Southern California.

Professor Guthrie has been a consultant to the governments of Armenia, Australia, Chile, Guyana, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Romania, and South Africa, and has had extensive experience in consulting for The World Bank, UNESCO, and the Organization of American States. He currently is president of the American Education Finance Association, and frequently serves on National Academy of Sciences panels. He is the author or co-author of ten books, and more than 200 professional and scholarly articles. He was the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of American Education, published in 2002. Professor Guthrie resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

PAUL T. HILL, University of Washington

Paul Hill is a Research Professor at the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, and Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which studies alternative governance and finance systems for public K-12 education. Dr. Hill’s recent work on education reform has focused on school choice plans, school accountability, and charter schools. He chaired the National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education, which issued its report, School Choice: Doing it the Right Way Makes a Difference, in November 2003. Dr. Hill holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from Ohio State University and a B.A. from Seattle University, all in political science. He is a non-resident Senior Fellow of the Brookings and Hoover Institutions.

CAROLINE M. HOXBY, Harvard University

Caroline Hoxby is a professor of economics at Harvard University, the director of the Economics of Education Program for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a member of the Koret Task Force on K–12 Education. Hoxby's research has received numerous awards, including a Carnegie Fellowship, a John M. Olin Fellowship, a National Tax Association Award, and a major grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development. She has written extensively on educational choice and related issues.

HELEN F. LADD, Duke University

Helen Ladd is the Edgar Thompson Professor of Public Policy Studies and Economics at Duke University. Most of her current research focuses on education policy. She is the editor of Holding Schools Accountable: Performance-Based Reform in Education (Brookings Institution, 1996) and is the coauthor (with Edward Fiske) of When Schools Compete: A Cautionary Tale (Brookings Institution, 2000) about school reform in New Zealand and of Elusive Equity: Education Reform in Post Apartheid South Africa (Brookings 2004 and HSRC 2005). From 1996-99 she co-chaired a National Academy of Sciences Committee on Education Finance. In that capacity she is the co-editor of two books: a set of background papers, Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance, and the final report, Making Money Matter: Financing America’s Schools. During the past few years she has written articles on teacher quality, charter schools, school-based accountability, market-based reforms in education, parental choice and competition, intergenerational conflict and the willingness to support education, and the effects of HUD’s Moving to Opportunity Program on educational opportunities and outcomes.

JOE NATHAN, University of Minnesota

Joe Nathan, senior fellow, directs the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. The Center seeks to help transform public education and to produce significant improvements in student achievement. The Center has received support from among other sources, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Annenberg, Rockefeller, General Mills, Cargill, Blandin, and Frey foundations. Current projects include work with governors in six states and with district high schools in three communities to help increase achievement and the percentage of students who graduate ready to do college level work. Nathan has received awards from parent, student and professional groups for his work as a public school teacher and administrator. He coordinated the National Governors Association education reform project, Time for Results. His specialty areas include parent and community involvement, school choice, charter schools, and youth community service.

Nathan has testified before twenty state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. He regularly publishes commentaries in major U.S. newspapers and has appeared on several hundred radio and television programs. The American School Boards Journal named his most recent book, Charter Schools: Creating Hope and Opportunity for American Education, one of the seven best books written about education in 1997.

Nathan holds a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Minnesota. He has been married for 32 years to a woman who has been a St. Paul public school teacher for 25 years. The Nathan’s three children attended St. Paul’s public schools, K-12.

PAUL E. PETERSON, Harvard University

Paul Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Editor-In-Chief of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research on education policy. He is a former director of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and of the Governmental Studies program at the Brookings Institution. Peterson is the author or editor of over one hundred articles and twenty-two books. Three of his books have received major awards from the American Political Science Association. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he was a professor for many years there in the Departments of Political Science and Education. Peterson chaired the Social Science Research Council’s Committee on the Urban Underclass and has served on many committees of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the German Marshall Foundation, and the Center for Study in the Behavioral Sciences. His various research projects have been supported by the Department of Education as well as the Achelis, Bradley, Bodman, Casey, Dillon, Ford, Fordham, Friedman, Gund, Hume, Packard, Olin, Rockefeller, Smith-Richardson, and Walton foundations. Most recently he was awarded the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation prize for Distinguished Scholarship, part of their Excellence in Education award program. He has also been appointed to a Department of Education independent review panel to advise the agency in evaluating the No Child Left Behind law.

MICHAEL PODGURSKY, University of Missouri at Columbia

Michael Podgursky is Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He has published numerous articles and reports on education policy and teacher quality and co-authored a book titled Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality. Dr. Podgursky's research has been supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Commission on Employment Policy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and various foundations and state government agencies. Dr. Podgursky is a member of the advisory boards of the National Center for Teacher Quality and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. From 1980 to 1995, Dr. Podgursky served on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He earned his bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Missouri at Columbia and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

MARK SCHNEIDER, National Center for Education Statistics

Mark Schneider was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on October 24, 2005 for the remainder of a term expiring June 20, 2009. NCES is one of the four centers of the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. He is on leave from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he is Distinguished Professor of political science. He received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in 1974. He has written widely in the areas of urban politics and public policy. His articles have appeared in all the major political science, sociology, and policy journals. His 1989 book, The Competitive City, won special recognition by the American Political Science Association’s Urban Politics Section for its theoretical contribution to the study of urban politics. His current work focuses on education policy and his most recent book, Choosing Schools: Consumer Choice and the Quality of American Schools (Princeton University Press, 2000, with Paul Teske and Melissa Marschall) won the Aaron Wildavsky best book prize from the Policy Studies Organization. His new book, Charter Schools: Hope or Hype? will be published by Princeton University Press in 2007. Schneider has also done extensive research connecting school facilities to educational outcomes.

Schneider has been active in his professional organizations, having served as the Vice President of the American Political Science Association 2000-2001; President, American Political Science Association Public Policy Section, 2000-2001; Program Chair, Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meetings, 2001; and on the executives council of the Midwest Political Science Association, the APSA Urban Section, and the APSA Public Policy Section. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, New York City, September 1997-July 1998 and at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, August 1990-August 1991. Earlier he held a Fulbright Hays Senior Fellowship, 1980-1981, at Osmania University, Hyderabad, India.

CLAIRE SMREKAR, Vanderbilt University

Claire Smrekar is an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University. She received her doctorate in Educational Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University in 1991. Dr. Smrekar has conducted qualitative research studies related to the social context of education and the social organization of schools, with specific reference to family-school-community interactions in public, private, and choice schools. Her current research involves a study of school and neighborhood effects associated with school choice plans in the post-court order busing era. Professor Smrekar is the author of two books: The Impact of School Choice and Community: In the Interest of Families and Schools (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996) and School Choice in Urban America: Magnet Schools and the Pursuit of Equity, with E. Goldring, (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999).

Dr. Smrekar was a member of the technical advisory panel for the national evaluation study (released January, 2004) of the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, U.S. Department of Education. She teaches two courses in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations: “The Social Context of Education” and “Qualitative Research Methods”.


Sheree Speakman joined WCLS Group Limited, a London-headquartered company, on March 1, 2005 as Chief Operating Officer, North America. She is responsible for the U.S. operations that operate under the name British Schools of America (BSA) (www.britishschool.org). BSA’s five schools are located in Washington, D.C.; Houston, TX; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and, Charlotte, N.C. BSA schools are private schools delivering the English National Curriculum and current enrollment exceeds 1300 students. The National Curriculum is supplemented with intensive, modern foreign language instruction and high ability, differentiated learning. The schools begin educating children at age 3, in both English and a second language. Education continues all the way through the U.S. equivalent of 12th grade with the final two years spent studying in the Diploma program of the International Baccalaureate. Nationally, the parents of BSA students are half American and half international company transfers resident in the U.S. for a short-term period.

Prior to joining BSA, Ms. Speakman was a consultant for 11 years to state policymakers and public school districts. From 2000 forward, Sheree consulted with a number of national foundations and corporations in the area of planning for the start-up and implementation of new charter schools across the country. This work includes strategic planning, policy design and drafting, school funding and building coalitions for multi-year projects. Her latest collaborative work from 2005 in school finance was the study “Charter School Funding: Inequity’s Next Frontier.” Authors and editors included Chester E. Finn, Jr., Bryan C. Hassel and Sheree Speakman. The study was released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Ms. Speakman is an authority on information-driven decision-making, performance management and school finance for K–12 education. As President of Fox River Learning, Inc. from 1998 to 2004, she led Fox River's focus in policy and school consulting that focused on the valid measurement and use of costs and learning gains in school districts and states across the nation. From 1993 through 1997, Sheree was the national partner-in-charge of Coopers & Lybrand L.L.P.’s national efforts in the areas of K–12 financial analysis and consulting work. Sheree is a leader in establishing expenditure benchmarking guidelines for instructional and non-instructional practices in public education. From 1994 to 1996, Ms. Speakman led the design, system development and release of In$ite®, a commercially available software product for district and school-level presentation and analysis of school finance. Sheree’s publishing and speaking activities focus on understanding school finance norms and practices in public education and resource investment.

MATTHEW G. SPRINGER, Vanderbilt University

Matthew G. Springer is a research assistant professor of public policy and education and director of the federally-funded National Center on Performance Incentives. Professor Springer joined the faculty of Peabody College in 2006, after completing a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University. Professor Springer’s research interests involve educational policy issues, with a particular focus on the impact of policy on resource allocation decisions and student outcomes. His current research includes studies of (1) the impact of performance-based incentives on student achievement and teacher turnover, mobility, and quality; (2) strategic resource-allocation decision making of schools in response to No Child Left Behind; and (3) the impact of school finance litigation on resource distribution. Professor Springer’s research is currently funded by the United States Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, Smith Richardson Foundation, and Texas Education Association. Professor Springer has served on several advisory committees charged with designing performance-based compensation systems for teachers and/or principals, and conducted analyses of school finance systems in Alaska, Kentucky, and South Carolina. He is a co-author of the textbook, Modern Education Finance and Policy.

HERBERT J. WALBERG, Stanford University

Herbert Walberg, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Stanford University Hoover Institution and a member of its Koret Task Force on K-12 Education, is Emeritus University Scholar and Professor of Education and Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on educational productivity and human accomplishments. In the fall of 2004, Walberg was confirmed as a member of the National Board for Education Sciences for a three-year term. Walberg joins two other Koret Task Force members in this advisory role to the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Walberg also chairs the board of directors of the Heartland Institute, an independent, nonprofit research center headquartered in Chicago. The Heartland Institute provides policy analysis to 8,500 elected government officials. Walberg joined the board of directors in 1993 and as its chair in 1995.

Walberg has written or edited more than 60 books, including Radical Education Reforms with Koret Task Force member Chester Finn. He has also written approximately 350 articles on such topics as the causes and effects of learning, teaching and instructional effectiveness, national comparisons of achievement, and educational measurement and evaluation. His articles have appeared in widely circulated journals, including Daedalus, Educational Leadership, Kappan, and Nature and in such newspapers as the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Walberg is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Statistical Society (London), the American Psychological Association, and the Australian Association for Educational Research. Additionally, he is one of about a dozen U.S. members of the International Academy of Education and currently serves as its vice president.

Walberg earned his Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Chicago and has held research posts at the Educational Testing Service and the University of Wisconsin. He previously taught at Harvard University and has been frequently called to testify before U.S. congressional committees and federal courts on educational matters.

KENNETH K. WONG, Brown University

Kenneth Wong holds the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Chair for Education Policy and serves as the Director for the Urban Education Policy (UEP) program at Brown University. Wong is one of the nation's leading political scientists whose work focuses on issues and questions in education. He has conducted extensive research in urban school reform, charter schools, state finance and educational policies, intergovernmental relations, and federal educational policies. He was the founding director of the National Research and Development Center on School Choice, funded by a $10 million IES grant. He is the author of Funding Public Schools: Politics and Policy (1999), and City Choices: Education and Housing (1990), and a coauthor of When Federalism Works (1986). He has edited/co-edited about a dozen books. Since July 2003, he has served as an editor of the journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Further, he was the immediate past president of the Politics of Education Association. Wong earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 1983.

RON ZIMMER, RAND Corporation

Ron Zimmer (Ph.D, Public Policy, University of Kentucky) is a policy analyst at RAND focusing his research on educational finance and school choice, in which he has published numerous articles and reports. In the past, he has led projects examining California charter schools and is currently leading a national evaluation of charter schools. He also has either lead or been part of teams that have examined Edison schools and the privatization of Philadelphia schools

The National Center on School Choice conducts scientific, comprehensive, and timely studies on school choice to inform policy and practice. The Center exercises national leadership in coordinating multiple disciplines, research methodologies, and substantive issues associated with the design, implementation, and effects of school choice. More...