Jessica Heppen is a vice president at AIR. She provides direction and oversight on AIR’s research and evaluation work, primarily in the areas of educational policy and practice. Her own research is primarily focused on educational technology and data use in schools, dropout prevention, teacher professional development, literacy, and mathematics education, with a consistent emphasis on improving academic outcomes and life opportunities for diverse learners.
Dr. Heppen has designed and led multiple studies of online learning in secondary schools, including four large-scale randomized controlled trials examining the effects of online and blended Algebra I and English Language Arts courses, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The first in this series of studies was Access to Algebra I: Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students (also known as the “Virtual Algebra study”), which examined the effects of offering an online course to broaden access to Algebra I on students’ achievement and later coursetaking patterns. A second study, Efficacy of Online Credit Recovery in Algebra I for At-Risk Ninth Graders examined the effectiveness of online Algebra I for credit recovery, relative to standard face-to-face versions of the course for helping at-risk ninth-graders get back on track toward graduation. A third study examined the impact of the Intensified Algebra program, a blended model for at-risk students in extended-time algebra classes, and the fourth is examining the impact of a blended model for credit recovery in both Algebra I and English, on high school students’ learning outcomes, coursetaking patterns, and graduation rates.
Dr. Heppen has also designed and led rigorous studies of dropout prevention strategies, including Check & Connect, a mentoring program for high school students, and early warning systems (EWS), which use data on attendance, course performance, and behavior to identify students who may be at risk of falling off track, and to monitor their response to targeted intervention. In related work, Dr. Heppen has led several analyses (using state and local data) of the strongest predictors of student outcomes including high school graduation, dropout, and college enrollment, and established AIR’s varied EWS initiatives. She has published articles, briefs, and practical tools focused on high school improvement and increasing graduation rates by establishing EWS to identify, support and monitor at-risk students, and spearheaded the development of AIR’s Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System (EWIMS).
She is currently leading the Impact Evaluation of Parent Messaging Strategies on Student Attendance, which developed an adaptive text messaging program aimed at reducing chronic absence among elementary school students. The study is examining the impact of the text messages on student attendance using a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART).
Dr. Heppen has also designed and led studies on literacy, mathematics, and teacher professional development. For example, she led the Impact Evaluation of Math Professional Development, a national study commissioned by IES of the effects of a content-intensive mathematics professional development program on upper elementary teachers’ knowledge, classroom practice, and their students’ achievement. She is currently leading the IES-funded Comprehensive Literacy Program Evaluation, a study of the implementation of the Striving Readers federal grant program, and the impact of its successor program, the Comprehensive Literacy State Development grant program.
In addition to conducting rigorous evaluations of policy-relevant educational programs, she has developed a particular interest in infusing innovative methods into continuous improvement efforts to support robust R&D. Prior to working at AIR, Dr. Heppen conducted evaluation studies of educational technology interventions in secondary schools in New York City.