Research and Publications

Research on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education

High School Success Pilot Program – Mathematics Instructional Coaches (MIC) Pilot Study, Texas Education Agency, 2009–2011. Dr. Merola was the Technical Lead on an evaluation of the Mathematics Instructional Coaches (MIC) program, which provided grants to eligible districts to develop coaching programs for middle and high school math teachers. Dr. Merola was responsible for ensuring the technical quality of the evaluation, supervising the analyses and data collection activities, and writing the final report. Dr. Merola designed the evaluation plan, analyses, survey instruments and interview protocols for the study. The MIC evaluation incorporated mixed-methods, and the impact assessment included an analysis of matched student and teacher data, which was the first time this type of analysis was done by the Texas Education Agency.

Multi-State Review of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Programs and Initiatives, Technical Assistance Project, Regional Educational Laboratory – Mid – Atlantic (REL MA), Institute for Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2009–2010. Dr. Merola was the Principal Investigator on a review of STEM programs across 31 states conducted for the Maryland State Department of Education. Dr. Merola directed the process of collecting, enumerating, and synthesizing detailed characteristics of the 520 programs identified.

Regional Educational Laboratory – Northeast and Islands (REL NEI) Pathways to Mathematics Achievement Study: Classroom Observations, Institute for Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2008. While employed at Windwalker Corporation, Dr. Merola was Deputy Project Manager of a project to conduct classroom observations of online, 8th grade algebra classrooms as part of REL NEI’s Pathways to Mathematics Achievement Study. Her responsibilities on this project included providing extensive input on the study design, developing protocols, and planning and conducting the training of staff for the classroom observations. Dr. Merola was also responsible for managing the budget and hiring consultants.

Regional Educational Laboratory – Northeast and Islands (REL NEI ) Pathways to Mathematics Achievement Study: Data Analysis, Institute for Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2006–2007. While employed at the American Institutes for Research, Dr. Merola was the Deputy Project Director of this randomized control trial of the effectiveness of an online algebra course. She was responsible for designing the HLM analysis and data collection plans for this study.

What Works Clearinghouse, Elementary School Math Curriculum-Based Interventions Review, Institute for Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2004–2007. While employed at the American Institutes for Research, Dr. Merola was the Project Coordinator for the Elementary School Math Curriculum-Based interventions review. Her responsibilities included project management, and designing and implementing the topic specific parameters for the What Works Clearinghouse Elementary School Math Curriculum-Based Interventions review of the research literature. She was responsible for managing the review process, and ensuring the review was accomplished in a timely manner while meeting the standards of the What Works Clearinghouse. This involved supervising the collection of the literature, developing the list of key words for electronic searches, designing the database for the management of the data, creation of the review protocol, creation of the coding guide, and reconciling the work of coders. Her responsibilities also included responding to questions from the public about the Elementary School Math review. Dr. Merola supervised the work of four Ph.D. level reviewers, and three research assistants.

What Works Clearinghouse, Middle School Math Curriculum-Based Interventions Review, Institute for Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2002–2004. While employed at the American Institutes for Research, Dr. Merola was the Deputy Project Coordinator for the Middle School Math Curriculum-Based Interventions Review. Dr. Merola aided in developing both the reviewing guidelines and topic areas for the What Works Clearinghouse. She pilot tested the preliminary versions of the procedures that would be used on the What Works Clearinghouse. Dr. Merola provided leadership in the creation of the Middle School Math Curriculum-Based Interventions review criteria, and reviewed studies collected for relevance and rigor.

Research on American High Schools, At-Risk Students, and Dropout Prevention

Drug Free Communities (DFC) Support Program National Evaluation, Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2010 – 2012. As part of the early stages of the project, Dr. Merola conducted a number of analyses using Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data collected by NHTSA and Census data to answer a number of questions about the potential impacts of the DFC program. Dr. Merola analyzed FARS data to assess whether there was an association between the presence of a DFC coalition and reductions in drug-related traffic-accident fatalities. Census data were analyzed to assess whether having a DFC coalition was linked to labor force participation rates.

Delaware Dropout Early Warning System, Technical Assistance Project, Regional Educational Laboratory – Mid-Atlantic (REL MA), Institute for Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2009–2010. Dr. Merola worked as part of a team analyzing student data provided by the state of Delaware to determine predictors of dropout and calculate “cut points” that could be used by the state to identify at-risk students. Data were provided on all students in the state. Dr. Merola provided methodological guidance and analytical support.

Case Studies of Career and Technical Education in United States’ High Schools, Policy and Program Studies Service, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education, 2007–2008. While at Windwalker Corporation, Dr. Merola was the Deputy Project Manager of a project to conduct case studies of Career and Technical Education in United States’ high schools. Responsibilities on these projects included providing extensive input on the study designs, protocol development, and planning and conducting the training of the case study staff.

National High School Center, U.S. Department of Education, 2007. While at the American Institutes for Research, Dr. Merola was an analyst responsible for designing a rubric to evaluate studies of secondary school students. Dr. Merola also trained the National High School Center review staff in research methods.

National Evaluation of High School Transformation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2004–2005. While at the American Institutes for Research, Dr. Merola was a member of the Achievement Study Team evaluating the effects of the Gates initiative involving the transformation of comprehensive highs schools into smaller schools. Dr. Merola supervised the work of junior staff in the analysis of the Achievement Study data. Dr. Merola was also extensively involved in the writing and assuring the quality of the reports.

Educational Measurement and Survey Design

NAEP: Development of a New Measure of Socioeconomic Status, National Center for Educational Statistics, Institute for Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2004–2007. While employed at the American Institutes for Research, Dr. Merola was the co-project manager of this multi-year project. Dr. Merola oversaw and managed all aspects of the project to develop a new measure of socioeconomic status for NAEP, including coordinating the work of multiple contractors. She was responsible for designing all aspects of a study to test the proposed measure or the NAEP SES Construct Validity study which was conducted in 2007, including preliminary sampling and analysis plans. Dr. Merola was responsible for drawing the sample for the study. As part of this project, she also developed new student background questionnaire items and managed the item testing process, including conducting cognitive labs with fourth, eighth, and twelfth grade students. Dr. Merola managed a feasibility study to test the possibility of incorporating geocoding and Census data into the NAEP framework. Dr. Merola supervised the work of junior staff throughout the project.

NAEP: 2006 Economics Background Questionnaires, National Center for Educational Statistics, Institute for Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2002–2003. While employed at the American Institutes for Research, Dr. Merola was an analyst in the team developing new items for the first NAEP Economics assessment background questionnaires. Dr. Merola managed the item testing process including designing and conducting cognitive labs, and supervising junior staff. Cognitive labs were conducted with high school principals, high school teachers of economics, and twelfth grade students.

International Research and Evaluation

Education Research Scientist, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Technical Assistance Programs, 2011–2012: Provided analytical support on evaluations in Bolivia and Egypt to assess the effectiveness of programs designed to prevent and eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Below are listed the particular roles Dr. Merola played:

  • Impact and Implementation Evaluation of CWCLP program in Egypt, Technical Specialist: This evaluation used a random assignment research design to assess the outcomes of children and families enrolled in the CWCLP program in comparison to non-participants. The program involves the implementation of community schools, take-home rations, livelihood training, and awareness-raising efforts to decrease the worst forms of child labor in the agricultural sector in Egypt. Dr. Merola’s tasks included analyzing the baseline data and contributing to the interim report.
  • Impact Evaluation of the Combating Exploitive Child Labor in Bolivia Program, Technical Specialist: This evaluation used a random assignment research design to examine the effectiveness of one component of their program, Nivelación (leveling). The leveling program is aimed at children who are behind in school by at least 2 grade levels. It builds upon the standard national curriculum in areas that include language, natural sciences, social sciences, and mathematics. It uses instructional support to reinforce students’ critical thinking skills and study habits so that they can overcome learning problems. Dr. Merola’s tasks included analyzing the baseline data and contributing to the interim report.

Evaluation Quality

Raising the Bar on Research, Quality Assurance Project, ICF International, 2009–2012. Dr. Merola was a member of a team that developed guidelines to ensure evaluation and data quality across ICF International projects. Dr. Merola has developed methodological and procedural guidelines project managers and project team members can use to help ensure quality and consistency across different projects and multiple components of individual projects.

Institutional Review Board, Chair, Windwalker Corporation, 2008. While employed at Windwalker Corporation, Dr. Merola was Chair of Windwalker’s Institutional Review Board. Dr. Merola was responsible for designing Windwalker’s human subjects’ protections procedures, reviewing research proposals, and training the staff in human subjects’ protections.

 

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

Technical Reports and Publications

McNall, S., Merola, S., Norgaard, K.M., & Szasz, A. (2012). “Climate Change and the Sociological Curriculum.” Forthcoming chapter in the American Sociological Association’s Report Sociological Perspectives on Climate Change.

Merola, S., Horwood, T., Leos, R., Mack A., & Basta, K. (2011). Evaluation of the Mathematics Instructional Coaches Pilot Program: Case Study Reports, 2008 – 2010. Fairfax, VA: ICF International. Available on the Texas Education Agency’s website: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2914&menu_id=949.

Merola, S., Horwood, T., Nebbergall, A., Uekawa, K., Passa, K., Mack, A., & Sun, J. (2011). Evaluation of the Mathematics Instructional Coaches Pilot Program: A High School Success Pilot Program, February 2011 Report. Fairfax, VA: ICF International. Available on the Texas Education Agency’s website: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2914&menu_id=949.

Merola, S., Williamson, E., and Fernandez, F. “A Multi-State Review of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Programs and Initiatives.” REL Mid-Atlantic Technical Assistance Brief, REL MA 1.1.77-10, February 2010.

Uekawa, K., Merola, S., Fernandez, F., and Porowski, A. “Creating an Early Warning System: Predictors of Dropout in Delaware” REL Mid-Atlantic Technical Assistance Brief, REL MA 1.1.75-10, January 2010.

Merola, S., and Linjean, M. “Career and Technical Education in American High Schools, Case Study Report: School E.” Prepared for Policy and Program Studies Service, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education, 2008.

Merola, S., and Keene. L. “Career and Technical Education in American High Schools, Case Study Report: School A.” Prepared for Policy and Program Studies Service, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education, 2008.

Merola, S., Patz, R., Davis, S., and Colombi, G. “Geocoding Feasibility Study: Final Report.” Prepared for National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2006.

Merola, S. “The Problem of Measuring SES on Educational Assessments.” http://www.eric.ed.gov/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED498924, 2005.

Merola, S., Ferrara, S., Gustufson, S., Mullaney, H., Baer, J., and Baldi, S. “Measuring Socioeconomic Status on NAEP: A Construct Validity Study.” Prepared for National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2005.

Baer, J., Baldi, S. and Merola, S. “The Measurement of Socioeconomic Status (SES) in the Social Sciences: A Review to Inform NAEP.” Prepared for National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2005.

Howland, H., Merola, S. and Basarab, J. “The Allometry and Scaling of the Size of Vertebrate Eyes.”, Vision Research, August 2004.

Clarkberg, M. and Merola, S. “Competing Clocks: Work Time and Leisure Time in Dual Earner Couples.” It’s About Time: Couples and Careers. Edited by Phyllis Moen, Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press, 2003.

Rhodes, D., and Merola, S. “Using the ISIR Analysis Tool to Improve Verification Procedures: The Results of Two Pilot Studies.” Prepared for Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, 2003.

Merola, S. Leisure and the Life Course: American Workers’ Free Time 1977 and 1997. (Doctoral Dissertation, Cornell University, 2001), UMI, AAT 3021220, 2001.

Merola, S. and Moen, P. “Time for Leisure: Do Gender, Occupation, and Life Stage Matter?“ Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center Working Paper, #00-02, 2000.

Merola, S. and Becker, P.E. “Leisure and the System of Activities” Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center Working Paper, #98-19, 1998.

 

PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATIONS

STEM Education

Merola, S. “Doing the Math: Can Improving Student Math Achievement Reduce Student Dropout and Improve College Enrollment?” Paper presented at the 25th Annual Conference of the American Evaluation Association, Anaheim, CA, November 2011.

Merola, S., and Passa, K. “An Evaluation of the Impact of Teacher Mathematics Instructional Coaches Training on Teachers and Schools.” Paper presented at the 24th Annual Conference of the American Evaluation Association, San Antonio, TX, November 2010.

Merola, S., Mack, A, and Kuscera, J. “An Evaluation of the Impact of Teacher Mathematics Instructional Coaches Training on Teachers and Schools.” Paper presented at the 23st Annual Conference of the American Evaluation Association, Orlando, FL, November 2009.

Merola, S., and Hitchcock, J. “Standards-Based Evidence on Middle School Mathematics Curricula: Results from the What Works Clearinghouse.” Poster presented at the 113th annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, August 2005.

Merola, S. “Standards-Based Evidence on Middle School Mathematics Curricula: Initial Results from the What Works Clearinghouse.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada, April 2005.

Merola, S. “Update on the latest reports of the effectiveness of middle-level math curricula.” Audio Education On-line. http://www.audioed-online.com/Archive/Feb05/Updates.asp, February 2005.

American High Schools, At-Risk Students, and Dropout Prevention

Merola, S., Porowski, A., and Uekawa, K. “One Reason Doesn’t Fit All: Understanding the Pathways to Dropping Out of School.” Paper presented at the Annual Meetings of the American Sociological Association, Las Vegas, NV, August 2011

Merola, S., Porowski, A., and Uekawa, K. “A Typology of High School Dropouts: Understanding the Pathways to Dropping Out of School.” Paper presented at the 2011 Eastern Evaluation Research Society Conference, Abescon, NJ, May 2011

Merola, S., Porowski, A., and Uekawa, K. “Understanding High School Dropout in Context: A Typology of High School Dropouts.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA, April 2011.

Merola, S., Porowski, A., and Uekawa, K. “A Typology of High School Dropouts: Understanding the Pathways to Dropping Out of School.” Poster presented at the 24th Annual Conference of the American Evaluation Association, San Antonio, TX, November 2010.

Porowski, A. and Merola, S. “A Typology of High School Dropouts: Understanding the Pathways to Dropping Out of School: Second in a series of webinars on Education in the Appalachian States,” Webinar presented on May 13, 2010.

Merola, S. and Porowski, A. “Assessing Reasons for High School Dropout: Dropout Typologies.” Paper presented at the 2010 Eastern Evaluation Research Society Conference, Abescon, NJ, April 2010

Educational Measurement and Survey Design

Merola, S. “Assessing the Feasibility of Incorporating Geocoding and Census Data Into the NAEP Framework.” Paper presented at the 21st Annual Conference of the American Evaluation Association, Baltimore, MD, November 2007.

Merola, S. “Assessing the Feasibility of Incorporating Geocoding and Census Data Into the NAEP Framework.” Paper presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL, April 2007.

Merola, S. “Measuring Socioeconomic Status in Educational Research.” Paper presented at the 20th Annual Conference of the American Evaluation Association, Portland, OR, November 2006.

Merola, S. “The Problem of Measuring Socioeconomic Status on Educational Assessments.” Paper Presented at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Philadelphia, PA, August 2005.

Merola, S., Baldi, S. and Baer, J. “Identifying and Validating Alternative Non-Obtrusive Measures for Use in NAEP.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Atlanta, Georgia, August 2003.