Jennifer L. Steele

Photo of Jennifer Steele
Adjunct Policy Researcher; Faculty Member, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Off Site Office


Ed.D. 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 an associate professor of education at American University in Washington, D.C., where her research focuses on urban education policy at the K-12 and postsecondary levels. She is also a faculty affiliate of American University's School of Public Affairs, an adjunct researcher at the RAND Corporation (where she previously worked for six years as a policy researcher), and a faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Steele's research emphasizes quantitative methods that support causal inference, as well as mixed-methods program evaluation designs. She currently leads a federally funded random-assignment study of dual-language immersion in Portland, Oregon, and co-leads a federally-funded evaluation of TNTP's school leadership program in Camden, New Jersey. She recently co-led a study of competency-based education reform in five school districts for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and worked on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Empowering Effective Teachers evaluation, examining changes in the distribution of effective teachers in four districts undertaking intensive human capital reforms. In addition, she has led a multi-state study of Post-9/11 GI Bill implementation for the American Council on Education and the Lumina Foundation, and co-led a federally funded examination of choice-based education reform in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Steele's work has appeared in such publications as the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, and Economics of Education Review. She received her doctorate in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University.

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Associate Professor of Education, American University

Recent Projects

  • Effects of Dual-Language Immersion on Student Achievement
  • 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

Selected Publications

Steele, J. L., Pepper, M. J., Springer, M. G., & Lockwood, J. R., "The distribution and mobility of effective teachers: Evidence from a large, urban school district," Economics of Education Review, 48:86-101, 2015

Steele, J. L., Lewis, M. W., Santibañez, L. Faxon-Mills, S., Rudnick, M., Stecher, Brian M., Hamilton, L. S., Competency-based education in three pilot programs: Examining implementation and outcomes, RAND Corporation (RR-732-BMGF), 2014

Davis, L. M., Steele, J. L., Bozick, R., Williams, M., Turner, S., Miles, J. N. V., Saunders, J., & Steinberg, P. S., How effective is correctional education, and where do we go from here? The results of a comprehensive evaluation., RAND Corporation (RR-564-BJA), 2014

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., Slaughter, M. E., Steele, J. L., Ikemoto, G. S., "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., 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

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