I am a Ph.D. student in Education Policy and Program Evaluation at Harvard University. My primary research interests involve identifying and evaluating interventions that improve student achievement and teacher quality—all with an eye toward eliminating disparities. I am particularly interested in interventions that optimize how students and teachers are assigned to schools and classrooms. I also hope to learn from and explore international education contexts in order to identify programs and policies that can inform the U.S. education system. As both a researcher and a practitioner who has benefited from evaluation resources, I hope to develop programs and toolkits that enhance the work of educators in the field.

Most recently, I led data strategy efforts at the Wake County Public School System, having joined as a Strategic Data Project Fellow in 2012. While there, I helped codify an enhanced data- and evidence-use policy, led a diverse series of randomized controlled trials, and developed the district’s research-practice partnership framework. Prior to that, I was a policy analyst at the Southern Regional Education Board, co-founded the education technology company BetterLesson, and taught middle school social studies in the Atlanta Public Schools as a Teach for America corps member. I studied economics and Russian at Wesleyan University and political science at Georgia State University.

Featured Publications

S.W. Hemelt and M.A. Lenard. 2019. “Math Acceleration in Elementary School: Access and Effects on Student Outcomes.” Economics of Education Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper examines curricular acceleration in mathematics during elementary school using administrative data from a large, diverse school district that recently implemented a targeted, test-based acceleration policy. We first characterize access to advanced math and then estimate effects of acceleration in math on measures of short-run academic achievement as well as non- test-score measures of grit, engagement with schoolwork, future plans, and continued participation in the accelerated track. Experiences and effects of math acceleration differ markedly for girls and boys. Girls are less likely to be nominated for math acceleration and perform worse on the qualifying test, relative to boys with equivalent baseline performance. We find negative effects of acceleration on short-run retention of math knowledge for girls, but no such performance decay for boys. After initial exposure to accelerated math, girls are less likely than boys to appear in the accelerated track during late elementary school and at the start of middle school.
S.W. Hemelt, M.A. Lenard, and C.G. Paeplow. 2019. “Building Bridges to Life after High School: Contemporary Career Academies and Student Outcomes.” Economics of Education Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Career academies serve an increasingly wide range of students. This paper examines the contemporary profile of students entering career academies in a large, diverse school district and estimates causal effects of participation in one of the district's well-regarded academies on a range of high school and college outcomes. Exploiting the lottery-based admissions process of this technology-focused academy, we find that academy enrollment increases the likelihood of high school graduation by about 8 percentage points and boosts rates of college enrollment for males but not females. Analysis of intermediate outcomes suggests that effects on attendance and industry-relevant certification at least partially mediate the overall high school graduation effect.