Jennifer L. Steele

Photo of Jennifer Steele
Policy Researcher; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Off Site Office


Ed.D. and Ed.M. in administration, planning, and social policy, Harvard University; A.M. in education, Stanford University; M.A. in English, Georgetown University; B.A. in psychology and English, Georgetown University


Jennifer L. Steele is a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, where she studies teacher quality, school reform, and data-based decisionmaking in schools. Steele is also a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her research skills focus on quantitative analysis of secondary datasets, including experimental and quasi-experimental methods. Steele is currently studying changes in the distribution of effective teachers for the Gates Foundation's Intensive Partnership Sites evaluation, and she is adapting the What Works Clearinghouse review methodology for a meta-analysis of correctional education programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. She recently led a multi-state study of veterans' access to education benefits on college campuses, as well as an examination of how states and districts are incorporating student performance into teacher evaluation systems, a project to develop educational technology usage indicators for the Lenovo Corporation, and an examination of the impact of financial incentives on the distribution of academically talented teachers in California. She also recently co-led a U.S. Department of Education-funded study of the policies of charter and traditional schools in post-Katrina New Orleans. Her other projects have included estimating implementation effects for a randomized field trial of a computer-based mathematics curriculum. Steele's work has appeared in such publications as the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Teachers College Record, and The Future of Children. She received an Ed.D. and Ed.M. in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University.

Recent Projects

  • Empowering Effective Teachers Evaluation
  • Educational Methods for Incarcerated Adults and Juveniles
  • Study of the Transformation of New Orleans Public Education
  • Access to Veterans' Benefits on U.S. College Campuses
  • Developing Indicators for Lenovo's Education Research Initiative

Selected Publications

Steele, J. L., Vernez, G., Gottfried, M., Schwamb-Baird, M., The Transformation of a School System: Principal, Teacher, and Parent Perceptions of Public Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans, RAND (TR-1145), 2011

Pane, J. F., McCaffrey, D. F., Steele, J. L., Ikemoto, G. S., Slaughter, M. E., "An experiment to evaluate the efficacy of Cognitive Tutor Geometry," Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 3(3):254-281, 2010

Steele, J. L., Murnane, R. J., Willett, J. B., "Do financial incentives help low-performing schools attract and keep academically talented teachers? Evidence from California," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 29(3):451-478, 2010

Steele, J. L., Stecher, B. M., Hamilton, L. S., Incorporating Student Performance into Teacher Evaluation Systems, RAND and Center for American Progress (TR-917), 2010

Steele, J. L., Salcedo, N., Coley, J., Service Members in School: Military Veterans' Experiences Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Adapting to Life on Campus, RAND and American Council on Education (MG-1083), 2010

Steele, J. L., & Boudett, K. P., "The collaborative advantage," Educational Leadership, 66(4):54-59, 2008

Boudett, K. P., & Steele, J. L. (Eds.), Data Wise in Action: Stories of Schools Using Data to Improve Teaching and Learning, Harvard Education Press, 2007

Murnane, R. J., & Steele, J. L., "What is the problem? The challenges of providing effective teachers for all children," The Future of Children, 17(1):1-30, 2007

Honors & Awards

  • Bronze Medal Award, 2011, RAND Corporation
  • Raymond Vernon Memorial Prize for Best Research Article of 2010, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
  • Dissertation Fellowship, 2007-08, Spencer Foundation


  • A teacher talking to a student at his desk

    Flexibility Is Key in Administration's Call for Teacher Equity Plans

    Metrics like teacher experience and licensure reveal little about teachers' impact on student learning. The focus should be on disadvantaged students' access to effective teachers.

    Aug 22, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • a man holding a book on his lap

    Sending Prisoners to College Will Save You Money

    Correctional education works for states because it saves money and shrinks prison populations. It works for prisoners, the public, law enforcement, and the judicial system because educated prisoners are less likely to return to their criminal ways once released.

    Apr 11, 2014 Newsday

  • man reading in a library

    Post-9/11 GI Bill: A Good Investment in Our Veterans Can Be Better

    To better tailor the benefits to the actual needs of veterans, it is important to determine how much the implementation has really improved, and if there are lessons that can be drawn to improve future initiatives. Of critical concern is whether veterans have the information they need to take the best advantage of their GI Bill benefits.

    Nov 8, 2013 The RAND Blog

  • 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

  • remaking-school-system-wake-natural-disaster

    Remaking a School System in the Wake of Natural Disaster

    In this podcast, policy researcher Jennifer Steele discusses charter and traditional schools in New Orleans, where charter-based reform spread in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

    May 17, 2012

  • Colleges Can Learn from For-Profits' Emphasis on the Consumer

    Though for-profit institutions had been criticized in the Senate report as offering credits that were hard to transfer elsewhere, it was the colleges' willingness to accept military transcripts that appealed to veterans who wanted to complete their degrees as fast as possible, writes Jennifer Steele.

    Feb 9, 2012 Military Times

  • Are Public-Service Subsidies Good for the Public?

    In the federal legislation signed this spring to reform student lending, one feature has been largely overlooked by the press: The new law increases the incentive for college graduates to choose public-service careers, such as teaching, write Jennifer L. Steele, Richard J. Murnane, and John B. Willett.

    Jul 14, 2010 Education Week