Laura S. Hamilton

Photo of Laura Hamilton
Associate Director, RAND Education; Senior Behavioral Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D. in educational psychology, M.S. in statistics, Stanford University; M.S. in psychology in education, University of Pennsylvania; B.S. in music education, Duquesne University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email

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Laura Hamilton is a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and associate director of RAND Education. She is also a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and an adjunct faculty member in the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Sciences and Policy program. Her research addresses educational assessment, accountability, the measurement and evaluation of instruction and school leadership, the use of data for instructional decision making, and evaluation of technology-based curriculum reforms. She has led several large-multi-site studies and has expertise in the collection and analysis of interview, focus group, survey, and student outcome data. Recent projects include an investigation of how districts and charter management organizations are implementing new teacher and principal evaluation and compensation reforms and an evaluation of personalized-learning initiatives. Hamilton serves on several state and national panels on topics related to assessment, accountability, educator evaluation, and data use. She recently served as a member of the committee that revised the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing and as chair of a What Works Clearinghouse panel on data-driven decision making. She is also an editor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. She holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology and an M.S. in statistics from Stanford University.

Recent Projects

  • Study of responses to standards-based accountability
  • Teacher and principal evaluation
  • Measurement of instruction and school leadership practices
  • Design of accountability systems
  • Evaluation of principal leadership development program

Selected Publications

Hamilton, L.S., Schwartz, H., Stecher, B.S., & Steele, J., "Improving accountability through expanded measures of performance," Journal of Educational Administration, 51(4):453-475, 2013

Hamilton, L.S., Engberg, J., Steiner, E.D., Nelson, C.A., Yuan, K., Improving School Leadership Through Support, Evaluation, and Incentives: The Pittsburgh Principal Incentive Program, RAND Corporation (MG-1223-PPS), 2012

Hamilton, L.S., Stecher, B.M., & Yuan, K., "Standards-based accountability in the United States: Lessons learned and future directions," Education Inquiry, 3:149-170, 2012

Hamilton, L.S. "Measuring teaching quality using student achievement tests: Lessons from educators' responses to No Child Left Behind.," in Kelly, S., Understanding Teacher Effects, Teachers College Press, 2011

Schwartz, H. Hamilton, L.S., Stecher, B.M., & Steele, J.L., Expanded Measures of School Performance, RAND Corporation (TR-968), 2010

Hamilton, L.S., Halverson, R., Jackson, S., Mandinach, E., Supovitz, J., & Wayman, J., Using student achievement data to support instructional decision making, U.S. Department of Education, 2009

Hamilton, L.S., Stecher, B.M., Russell, J.L., Marsh, J.A., & Miles, J., "Accountability and teaching practices: School-level actions and teacher responses," Research in Sociology of Education, 16:31-66, 2008

Hamilton, L.S., "Assessment as a Policy Tool," Review of Research in Education, 27(25-68), 2003

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: Education Daily; Education Week; Los Angeles Times; NEA Today; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; San Antonio Express-News; United Press International; New York Times

Commentary: Philadelphia Inquirer; Pittsburgh Business Times; Education Week; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


  • Student taking a standardized test

    Standardized Tests Can Be Smarter

    Capping the amount of time students spend testing is a reasonable response to unchecked growth. However, a better response would be to systematically review testing programs, focusing on tests that offer the most value.

    Nov 2, 2015 U.S. News & World Report

  • Elementary school students at their lockers

    Reauthorizing ESEA: What We Know and Where We Should Go with School Improvement

    Federal policy should ensure that school improvement is a priority, that schools adopt proven reforms that fit the school context, and that schools and their districts are held accountable when federal resources are used for school improvement.

    Feb 11, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • Mathematics teacher pointing to the blackboard and talking to his class

    Reauthorizing ESEA: Four Recommendations to Improve Teaching Effectiveness

    Policies aimed at boosting teaching effectiveness are a key component of a strong ESEA reauthorization. Addressing discrepancies in teacher quality helps teachers improve, retains effective teachers, and makes the teaching profession an attractive option for those contemplating careers.

    Feb 3, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • Students taking a test in a classroom

    Reauthorizing ESEA: Four Recommendations to Make Testing Work

    Will Congress be able to reauthorize ESEA in 2015? Success will depend on legislators clearing several hurdles, such as decisions regarding teacher quality, school improvement, and charter schools. And at the center of the debate remains the issue of federal requirements for testing.

    Jan 21, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • Two high school or college students working together

    A Plan for Measuring Hard-to-Measure, 'Soft' Skills

    Research increasingly suggests that 'soft' skills are important for college and career success, as well as for promoting civic engagement. So far, these skills are largely unmeasured in schools. But new research may pave the way for change.

    Dec 10, 2014 Education Week

  • instructor holding a tablet with students

    How to Assess 21st Century Competencies: 12 Key Lessons

    Assessing competencies such as creativity and global awareness can provide educators with a broader set of indicators they can use to inform instruction and set goals with students. However, evidence about the effects of testing suggests that caution and careful planning is warranted when developing a new assessment system.

    Feb 18, 2014 Education Week

  • multiple choice standardized test answer sheet

    Are High-Stakes Tests Counterproductive?

    If we want testing to exert beneficial effects on teaching and learning, we need to advocate for higher-quality tests and for evaluation and accountability systems that use multiple measures and do not rely exclusively on test scores, write Laura Hamilton and Gabriella C. Gonzalez.

    Apr 22, 2013 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • School Principals Respond to Performance-Based Evaluation System

    It's fair to say the program turned out to be an important step for the district in the context of its overall reform plan considering how important high-quality school leadership is for improving teaching and learning, write Laura Hamilton and John Engberg.

    Aug 15, 2012

  • Maintaining Accountability and Nurturing Innovation Through a Reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    In this Congressional panel briefing RAND researchers discuss the possible reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)--how it will require several critical decisions about standards, assessments, reporting requirements, and school improvement initiatives.

    May 31, 2012

  • The Limits of Average Test Scores

    The Limits of Average Test Scores, in Pittsburgh Business Times on May 11, 2007.

    May 11, 2007 Pittsburgh Business TImes

  • Think It Through on Tests

    Published commentary by RAND staff: Think It Through on Tests, in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Mar 28, 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Parents of Schoolchildren: Start Your Information Engines

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    Oct 10, 2004 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Test-Based Accountability: Making It Work Better

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    Feb 20, 2002 Education Week