Brian M. Stecher

Photo of Brian Stecher
Adjunct Social Scientist
Off Site Office


Ph.D. in education, University of California, Los Angeles; M.A. in mathematics, University of Oregon; B.A. in mathematics, Pomona College

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


Brian Stecher is an adjunct social scientist at the RAND Corporation. His research focuses on measuring education quality and evaluating education reforms, with a particular emphasis on assessment and accountability systems.

During his 30 years at RAND, Stecher has directed evaluations of large-scale educational reforms, including No Child Left Behind (U.S. Department of Education), the Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching (Gates Foundation), mathematics and science systemic reforms (National Science Foundation), and Class Size Reduction (California Department of Education). Stecher has done extensive research on measuring educational practices and outcomes, including developing assessments (prototype performance assessments for teacher certification, hands-on science tasks for middle school students), validating tests (the quality of portfolio assessments in Vermont and Kentucky), studying the use of assessments for school improvement (formative and interim assessments, measures of interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies), and developing alternative measures of instructional practice (vignette-based survey items, mathematics and science teacher notebooks, and electronic tablet-based science teacher portfolios).

Stecher has published widely in professional journals, and he has served on expert panels related to standards, assessments, and accountability. He received his Ph.D. in education from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Recent Projects

  • The TALIS Video Study
  • Electronic Portfolios for Measuring the Quality of Science Instruction
  • Evaluation of the Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching
  • Repository of Measures of Social and Emotional Learning
  • National Longitudinal Study of No Child Left Behind

Selected Publications

L. S. Hamilton, H. Schwartz, B. M. Stecher and J. Steele, "Improving Accountability Through Expanded Measures of Performance," Journal of Educational Administration, 51(4), 2013

Martínez, J.F., Stecher, B., and Borko, H., "Classroom Assessment Practices, Teacher Judgments, and Student Achievement in Mathematics: Evidence from the ECLS," Educational Assessment, 14, 2009

Stecher, B. M., Le, V., Hamilton, L. S., Ryan, G., Robyn, A., and Lockwood, J. R., "Using structured classroom vignettes to measure instructional practices in mathematics," Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 28(2), 2006

B. M. Stecher and L. S. Hamilton, Measuring Hard-to-Measure Student Competencies: A Research and Development Plan, RAND (RR-863), 2014

Stecher, B.M. et al., A Culture of Consequences: Performance-Based Accountability Systems for Public Services, RAND (MG-1019), 2010

Stecher, B.M. & Vernez, G., Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind: Facts and Recommendations, RAND (MG-977), 2010

Hamilton, L.S. & Stecher, B.M. "Expanding what counts when evaluating charter school effectiveness," in Betts, J.R. & Hill, P.T., Taking the measure of charter schools: Better assessments, better policymaking, better schools, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010

Stecher, B. M., Garet, M. S., Hamilton, L. S., Steiner, E. D., Robyn, A., Poirier, J., Holtzman, D., Fulbeck, E. S., Chambers, J. & Brodziak de los Reyes, I., Improving Teaching Effectiveness: Implementation: The Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching Through 2013-14, RAND (RR-1295-BMGF), 2016

Honors & Awards

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, California Educational Research Association
  • Outstanding Publication Award, American Educational Research Association, Division H

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: ABC; Associated Press; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Christian Science Monitor; Los Angeles Times; NPR; Washington Post

Commentary: Education Week; Los Angeles Times;


  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Children raise their hands in a classroom

    How School Choice Could Disadvantage Low-Income Students

    The flexibility to allow Title I-A funds to follow students across schools has a certain appeal. But it could have negative consequences for some of the poorest students.

    Sep 1, 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Teacher helping toddlers color at daycare

    High-Quality Early Childhood Programs Require High-Quality Teachers

    High-quality early childhood interventions can improve academic achievement, reduce crime and delinquency, and enhance future labor market success. But the operative word is "high-quality." And for early childhood programs to be high-quality, they must have qualified instructors.

    Mar 18, 2013 The RAND Blog

  • Students in a classroom

    Taking Stock on the Anniversary of 'No Child Left Behind'

    While “No Child Left Behind” aims to improve schools, Congress can improve the law. Flexibility and capacity are crucial, particularly for struggling schools, writes Brian Stecher.

    Jan 10, 2013 The Huffington Post

  • A teacher solicits questions from a class of young students.

    No Child Left Behind, Act II

    The bill's eleventh anniversary presents an opportunity to consider what the evidence tells us about how to make NCLB more effective.

    Jan 8, 2013 Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Revamp NCLB to Fulfill Its Promise

    Research reveals that NCLB has flaws, but changes can be made that preserve its basic goals of school accountability and student improvement, writes Brian Stecher.

    Sep 16, 2007 Baltimore Sun

  • 'No Child' Leaves Too Much Behind

    Published commentary by RAND staff: 'No Child' Leaves Too Much Behind, in

    Sep 13, 2006

  • Test-Based Accountability: Making It Work Better

    Published commentary by RAND staff.

    Feb 20, 2002 Education Week

  • Test Schemes Look More Like Lotto Than Lessons

    Incentives may be effective if they target the right outcomes and encourage the right behaviors, but this set of tests and rewards has shortcomings on both fronts.

    Sep 27, 2000 Los Angeles Times