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“PSC's multi-disciplinary environment is a great asset, which is not always available in universities”

Sarah Avellar

Senior Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research.

Ph.D. Sociology, 2004 University of Michigan

Personal Notes
In my non-work life, I am currently training to become a yoga teacher.
Research Activities

Sarah Avellar is a senior researcher whose research interests include early childhood, education, and family support.

Currently, she is a co-principal investigator for the Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness Review. This project will conduct a thorough and transparent review of the home visiting research literature to provide guidance to states as they develop applications for the home visiting funds. The health care reform legislation includes funds for home visiting, with most of the funds going to evidence-based approaches.

Avellar is the deputy project director of the National Title I Study of the Implementation and Outcomes: Early Childhood Language Development, a five-year project designed to identify school programs and teaching practices associated with the development of children’s reading comprehension achievement in prekindergarten through third grade. The project will assess children’s growth in language development and background knowledge and develop observational measures of teacher practices that are expected to support this development.

She also is involved in many aspects of the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), which reviews and synthesizes scientific research on education. She leads the training and certification of WWC reviewers for group design standards. She is the deputy principal investigator in two areas: Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Education for Children with Disabilities.

Avellar joined Mathematica in 2004. She is a reviewer for the Journal of Marriage and Family, Demography, Journal of Family Issues, and The Sociological Quarterly. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan.

PSC's Influence on Career
PSC's multi-disciplinary environment is a great asset, which is not always available in universities. I remember being surprised to learn that researchers in different fields often studied the same topics, but were, almost as often, completely unaware of each other's work. The interaction and dialogue at PSC, which involved students and faculty, facilitated the exchange of information and ideas across disciplines. That positive experience reinforced my interest in working in a similar environment, and in my current job, my colleagues include economists, psychologists, and sociologists.

My training at Michigan and PSC was excellent preparation for the quantitative and research design work that I do. For example, some of my recent work is evaluating the quality of extant research that examines the effectiveness of selected interventions. PSC contributed to the development of my methodological skills, as well as sharpened my critical thinking, both which are needed to understand and assess the technical rigor of these studies.
Memories of PSC
Looking back, I am still grateful for the funding and other resources PSC provided, such as the work space, computer support, data services, and research opportunities. That support is so important for students' productivity, and, in my opinion, morale. And speaking of morale, I remember when we moved into the great space at ISR, and how happy I was to work next to those huge windows. In the earlier space under the parking structure, at the end of the day, I always had to check the weather on the internet!
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