PhD in Public Policy

Erika Stump ’15

erika stump

Career

  • Current position: Learning Assessment Specialist, Bates College
  • Position during PhD studies: Research Associate II, CEPARE, USM

Erika worked in Maine public high schools as an English teacher for ten years prior to teaching at Central Maine Community College and Bowdoin College. As a Research Associate at USM, her research included quantitative and qualitative studies examining policy implementation, achievement among disadvantaged students, critical geography and education reform.

Degrees:

  • PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Southern Maine, 2015
  • MS in Education, University of Southern Maine
  • BA in English with a concentration in African American Literature, Wesleyan University 

Dissertation

Title: Students Beating the Odds: A Multilevel Analysis of Factors Relating to Academic Achievement among Students Living in Persistent Poverty

Abstract: The purpose of this ex post facto quantitative study using descriptive and inferential analysis was to identify and examine characteristics of students living in persistent poverty in relation to their academic performance on standardized assessments. This study extends existing research by focusing on a cohort of students living in persistent poverty and analyzing information from various geographic locales, including rural schools. Using data from the Maine Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics, this study examined a sample of 3,202 students during grades three through eight from more than one hundred public schools in Maine. Multilevel regression methods were utilized to analyze students' individual and school factors predicting demonstration of proficiency in mathematics and reading in single-grade and time-varying models.

Results of this exploratory study indicate that a student's race, age, and eligibility for special education services were statistically significant predictors of mathematics and reading proficiency. Gender became a significant predictor of proficiency when the content areas of mathematics and reading were analyzed separately, indicating that being female was a negative predictor of mathematics proficiency and a positive predictor of reading proficiency. Across grades three through eight, students demonstrated a marked decline in proficiency levels from third to fourth grade, supporting existing research regarding the "fourth grade slump." Students' demonstration of proficiency then increased through eighth grade in reading and declined in mathematics. Variables representing individual student characteristics reflected stronger relationships with proficiency outcomes than aggregated school-level data. In addition, variance components indicated that between-school variability was much lower than between-student variability in proficiency outcomes when considering the data in this study. However, the average rate of teachers who had earned a master's degree or higher and the geographic locale emerged as significant predictors of proficiency in some models. School characteristics of free or reduced-price lunch rate, enrollment, average daily attendance, and average teachers' years of experience appeared as very weak, often non-significant, predictors of students living in poverty demonstrating proficiency in statewide standardized assessments. The results point to several areas that warrant further research and policy analysis.