Laura S. Hamilton

Photo of Laura Hamilton
Adjunct Behavioral Scientist
Off Site 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

More Experts


Laura Hamilton is an adjunct behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation. She serves as faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and has served as an adjunct faculty member in the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Sciences and Policy program. Her research addresses topics related to social and emotional learning, educational assessment, accountability, school leadership, the implementation of curriculum and instructional reforms, and education technology. She currently leads RAND’s work on the National Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety. Other recent projects include a study of a social and emotional learning intervention for elementary schools and afterschool programs, the development of a database of measures of students’ inter- and intrapersonal competencies, and an evaluation of personalized learning interventions. She has served on a number of committees that address topics related to assessment and evaluation, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Developing Indicators of Education Equity, the steering committee for the CASEL Assessment Work Group, and the technical advisory committees for several state assessment programs. She earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology and an M.S. in statistics from Stanford University.

Recent Projects

  • Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative
  • American School District Panel
  • Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety
  • Civic Education in America's Schools
  • Review of Social and Emotional Learning Interventions Tied to the Every Student Succeeds Act Evidence Tiers

Selected Publications

Hamilton, L.S., Doss, C.J., & Steiner, E.D., Teacher and principal perspectives on social and emotional learning in America’s schools: Findings from the American Educator Panels, RAND Corporation (RR-2991-BMGF), 2019

Hamilton, L.S., Stecher, B.M., Schweig, J., & Baker, G., RAND Education Assessment Finder, RAND Corporation (TL-308), 2018

Grant, S., Hamilton, L.S., Wrabel, S.L., Auger, A., Gomez, C., Leschitz, J.T., Unlu, F., Chavez-Herrerias, E., Baker, G., Barrett, M., Harris, M., & Ramos, A. , Social and emotional learning interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence review, RAND (RR-2133-WF), 2017

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

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, 2008

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

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

Honors & Awards

  • Bronze Medal Award, RAND Corporation
  • Outstanding Reviewer Award, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
  • Outstanding Reviewer Award, American Educational Research Association

Recent Media Appearances

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

Commentary: Philadelphia Inquirer; Pittsburgh Business Times; Education Week; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; U.S. News & World Report


  • Young Asian boy using laptop with headphones, photo by allensima/Getty Images

    Learning from School Leaders About SEL During a Time of Crisis

    It would be easy for social and emotional learning to fall by the wayside as school leaders work to address students' health, safety, and learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. Policymakers and funders should take seriously the perspectives and concerns that school leaders have shared.

    Sep 4, 2020 The RAND Blog

  • Children stand on smiley faces to maintain social distancing in the courtyard of a school in Paris, France, May 14, 2020, photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

    How to Reopen Schools: Q&A with RAND Experts

    The debate over opening U.S. schools is growing more heated by the day. In this Q&A, RAND researchers discuss the different approaches for reopening, how online learning went in the spring, ways to help disadvantaged students, and more.

    Jul 23, 2020 The RAND Blog

  • Middle school reading teacher Shayna Boyd prepares for the start of remote teaching in her home office in Chicago, Illinois, April 8, 2020, photo by Brendan O'Brien/Reuters

    How COVID-19 Affected the Nation's Schools: New Data Gives Insights for Planning

    RAND surveyed teachers and principals to gauge how the pandemic has affected schooling, what supports these educators need, and how they are thinking about the next school year.

    May 26, 2020 The RAND Blog

  • Chrissy Brackett and grandson Caidence Miller learn to navigate an online learning system at her home in Woodinville, Washington, March 11, 2020, photo by Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

    Schools Pivot Online in Wake of COVID-19: Q&A with RAND Experts

    Nearly all school-age children in the United States are no longer in the classroom as districts shut down to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus. RAND education researchers discuss how this situation might exacerbate educational inequities, how districts and teachers are innovating and what they need, and what parents can do.

    Apr 2, 2020 The RAND Blog

  • A girl doing schoolwork on a laptop computer, photo by ijeab/Getty Images

    Online Doesn't Have to Mean Impersonal

    Children's needs extend beyond the purely academic. It is important that their social and emotional well-being is supported as instruction moves online during the COVID-19 pandemic. A whole-child view of what students need could benefit them now more than ever.

    Apr 2, 2020 The 74 Million

  • A sign in front of Bothell High School, which closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, reads, 'Wash your hands!!!,' Bothell, Washington State, March 3, 2020, photo by Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

    Navigating College and Career Readiness in a Time of Uncertainty

    How we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic today will likely have longer-term effects. This means that we need to think about people who are actively preparing for that future: high school students looking to enter college and careers.

    Mar 26, 2020 The RAND Blog

  • Children looking down at the camera, photo by FatCamera/Getty Images

    Back to School Means Back to SEL for America's Teachers and Principals

    Schools are increasingly adopting programs and practices to build social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. Policymakers can benefit from understanding the educator perspective: how they feel about SEL, what they're doing to promote it, and what resources they need.

    Sep 4, 2019 CASEL Measuring SEL Blog

  • High school principal talks with students outside at school, photo by asiseeit/Getty Images

    For Teachers, a Good Boss Makes All the Difference

    Districts that try to place an effective leader in every school could reap educational benefits in the classroom. Giving a teacher a good boss also could be a powerful element in a broader strategy to recruit and retain highly effective educators.

    Apr 4, 2019 The 74 Million

  • Students building something together with tiles, photo by FatCamera/Getty Images

    How Do You Measure Social and Emotional Learning?

    As the desire to improve SEL for all students grows, it is increasingly important to measure its effectiveness. But the field has lacked an organized method of identifying, choosing, and using the best assessments to measure students' competencies. Two newly developed tools can help.

    Mar 28, 2019 The Hechinger Report

  • School children stretching up at lesson, photo by mediaphotos/Getty Images

    Measuring Social-Emotional Skills, Carefully

    In the often-fraught debate over education policy, there is growing agreement that educators should pay close attention to the development of the social and emotional skills that allow students to persevere when working on difficult tasks, regulate emotions, and work effectively in teams. But measuring such skills remains a significant challenge.

    Feb 28, 2019 FutureEd

  • Students sitting and talking in a school corridor, photo by Don Mason/Getty Images

    Choosing the Right Social and Emotional Learning Programs and Practices

    Educators have become increasingly interested in supporting students to cultivate the inter- and intra-personal skills that are developed through the process of social and emotional learning. A new guide developed at RAND is meant to help educators adopt evidenced-based interventions that fit the needs of their students and communities.

    Feb 5, 2019 The Wallace Foundation

  • A group of children playing outdoors

    Finding the Right Assessment Tool: Another Resource for Educators and Researchers

    To teach something effectively, educators need to determine whether their instructional approaches are working, and make adjustments to those approaches as needed. The Assessment Work Group and RAND have developed tools to assist educators in finding and using assessments to measure social and emotional learning and higher-order cognitive competencies.

    Nov 7, 2018 The Measuring SEL Blog

  • Teacher leading a conflict resolution session with school children

    Learning How to Measure Social and Emotional Learning

    Educators and policymakers are increasingly focusing on non-academic competencies, known as social and emotional learning. To support growth in these areas, teachers need assessments that can help them understand how well students are learning these skills, and what instructional approaches work best.

    Jan 11, 2018 FutureEd

  • A group of young school children stretching their arms out above their heads

    Building Support for Social and Emotional Learning: Having an Evidence Base Is Critical

    Students need more than proficiency in reading or math. Perseverance, active listening, empathy and good decision-making help kids succeed both academically and in life. Schools need access to high-quality social and emotional learning assessment measures to ensure programs will improve student learning and their futures.

    Dec 14, 2017 The Measuring SEL Blog

  • A teacher meeting with a parent and her child in a classroom

    How Parents Can Find Out What They Need to Know in an Era of School Choice

    To make an informed choice about schools, parents need to know about the quality of instruction, services, and the overall school climate. Schools need a better system of measuring and collecting data on performance, and a way to make it accessible to families.

    Feb 21, 2017 U.S. News & World Report

  • Group of high school students celebrating graduation

    What's Behind Record High School Graduation Rates? It's Complicated

    Graduation rates among U.S. high schoolers have risen for the fourth straight year. Which reforms are making a difference? And who, or what, should get credit?

    Oct 21, 2016 United Press International

  • A teacher helps a high school student work on a laptop

    Helping Pittsburgh Stay on the Cutting Edge of Education Innovation

    Local organizations, educators, and leaders are creating remarkable learning experiences for Pittsburgh's young people, and other cities around the country are striving to replicate their innovations.

    May 8, 2016 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Teacher with four students working as a group

    The High Stakes of 'Soft Skills'

    With the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Congress is broadening what it considers success when it comes to judging school quality. One potential new indicator being discussed in some states is social and emotional learning, which has been linked to success later in life.

    Apr 7, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • A teacher and student in a classroom looking at a laptop

    Technology Is Only Part of Personalized Learning

    The concept of personalized learning has gained favor in recent years, partly because new technology applications help to facilitate it. But those who characterize this instructional approach as

    Mar 4, 2016 The RAND Blog

  • 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

  • A principal talking to a student and his parent in her office

    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 The RAND Blog

  • 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