Susan Sepanik
Senior Associate, K-12 Education

Sepanik is the principal investigator of the Next Generation California Partnership Academies study, a rigorous evaluation of career academies; an evaluation of the Oregon Early Indicator and Intervention System, a quasi-experimental study of a statewide early warning system; the long-term follow-up study of the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways, a college developmental math reform; and a study of California State University’s proposal to require an additional high school quantitative reasoning course for enrollment. She has been involved in several other evaluations during her 15-year tenure at MDRC, including an impact study of Diplomas Now, the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Central Florida Collaborative evaluation, the Enhanced Reading Opportunities impact study, professional development impact studies for second-grade reading teachers and seventh-grade math teachers, the evaluation of the Formative Assessments of Student Thinking in Reading program in Boston Public Schools, the Getting Ready for Success college readiness pilot project in Tacoma, Washington, and an exploratory study of college readiness partnerships in Texas. She has been responsible for running site and student recruitment efforts, managing quantitative and qualitative data collection, designing surveys and interview protocols, analyzing program effects, and coauthoring several reports. Before joining MDRC, Sepanik worked as a research intern at Chicago Public Schools, conducting research on student access to quality teaching and supporting efforts to create a school accountability system for the district. She has also taught middle school language arts and social studies. She has an MPP from the Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

  • MDRC Publications


      How an Additional Quantitative Reasoning Course Could Affect Student Access and Success

      November, 2022
      Susan Sepanik, Alyssa Ratledge, Andrea Shane, Michelle Dixon, Amanda Martin-Lawrence

      This report studies a proposal to add one year of high school quantitative reasoning coursework to California State University’s admissions requirements. It analyzes how the proposal, had it been accepted, could have affected students’ access to and success at the university, particularly for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

      December, 2021

      School-community partnerships are one strategy leaders can use to increase equity in education by building supportive environments that meet students’ social and emotional needs. A recent brief on school-community partnerships included some advice from three leaders of successful district-level partnership programs. This companion brief focuses specifically on these leaders’ suggestions.


      Solutions for Educational Equity Through Social and Emotional Well-Being

      November, 2021

      Schools and school districts are being asked to provide more and more services to students while being given few additional resources. This brief discusses how school districts can use partnerships with outside organizations and agencies to help provide those additional services.


      Solutions Through Social and Emotional Well-Being

      July, 2021

      This is the first in a series of briefs highlighting strategies to increase educational equity by addressing students’ social and emotional needs. It describes how environmental and structural factors cause disparities in social and emotional well-being that affect learning, then lays out three levels of change to address this inequity.


      Findings from the Dana Center Mathematics Pathways Impact Study

      November, 2019
      Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow, Susan Sepanik, Victoria Deitch, Julia Raufman, Dominique Dukes, Adnan Moussa

      This instructional reform diversifies math course content so that it better aligns with students’ career interests. After three semesters, the reform increased developmental math students’ rates of taking and passing college-level math and accumulating math credits. Few effects have yet emerged on overall credit accumulation, degree receipt, or transfer to a four-year college.


      Implementation and Outcome Findings for the AVID Central Florida Collaborative Study

      March, 2018
      Susan Sepanik, Stephanie Safran, Larissa Saco

      Implemented in eight secondary schools and a local college, this program was designed to build students’ college preparedness by training instructors in shared teaching strategies and best practices, strengthening academic rigor in the classroom, and promoting collaboration and consistency in teaching and study strategies across grades and schools.


      Interim Impact Findings from the Investing in Innovation (i3) Evaluation of Diplomas Now

      June, 2016

      The Diplomas Now whole-school reform model, including targeted interventions for students at risk of dropping out, had an impact on the percentage of students with no early warning indicators related to attendance, behavior, or course performance, and had more encouraging results in middle schools than high schools.


      Changing School Practices During the Second Year of Diplomas Now

      May, 2015
      Susan Sepanik, William Corrin, David Roy, Aracelis Gray, Felix Fernandez, Ashley Briggs, Kathleen K. Wang

      Diplomas Now, a partnership of three national organizations, aims to increase graduation rates in high-risk schools, targeting support to students who need it most. This second report finds that Diplomas Now schools are differentiating themselves from comparable schools in their implementation of structural and instructional reforms.


      The First Year of Implementing Diplomas Now

      August, 2014
      William Corrin, Susan Sepanik, Aracelis Gray, Felix Fernandez, Ashley Briggs, Kathleen K. Wang

      Three national organizations formed Diplomas Now in an effort to transform urban secondary schools so fewer students drop out. This report introduces Diplomas Now and the associated evaluation, shares first-year implementation fidelity findings, and discusses collaboration among the Diplomas Now partners and between those partners and schools.


      Bridging the Gap between High School and College in Tacoma, Washington

      June, 2012

      Getting Ready for Success provides low-income students in Tacoma with academic and social supports and monetary incentives during the late high school and early college years to increase their motivation and ability to succeed in college.


      An Exploratory Study of College Readiness Partnership Programs in Texas

      May, 2012
      Elisabeth A. Barnett, William Corrin, Aki Nakanishi, Rachel Hare Bork, Claire Mitchell, Susan Sepanik

      College readiness partnership programs bring together colleges and K-12 institutions to reduce the number of students who need remedial courses when they get to college. This report examines 37 partnerships in Texas to identify key characteristics of the programs, as well as benefits and challenges associated with their implementation and sustainability.

      May, 2011
      Michael S. Garet, Andrew J. Wayne, Fran Stancavage, James Taylor, Marian Eaton, Kirk Walters, Mengli Song, Seth Brown, Steven Hurlburt, Pei Zhu, Susan Sepanik, Fred Doolittle

      In a study sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences, intensive professional development programs for seventh-grade math teachers were implemented as intended, but teacher turnover limited the average dosage received. The programs had no impact on teacher knowledge or student achievement.


      The Impact of Supplemental Literacy Courses for Struggling Ninth-Grade Readers

      July, 2010
      Marie-Andrée Somers, William Corrin, Susan Sepanik, Terry Salinger, Jesse Levin, Courtney Zmach

      Over the course of ninth grade, two supplemental literacy courses modestly improved students’ reading comprehension skills and helped them perform better academically in their course work. However, these benefits did not persist in the following school year, when students were no longer receiving the supplemental support.

      April, 2010
      Michael S. Garet, Andrew J. Wayne, Fran Stancavage, James Taylor, Kirk Walters, Mengli Song, Seth Brown, Steven Hurlburt, Pei Zhu, Susan Sepanik, Fred Doolittle

      This report presents first-year results from the Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. The professional development programs for seventh-grade math teachers had an impact on one measure of teacher practice but no effects on teachers’ knowledge or student achievement.


      Findings from an Evaluation of the Formative Assessments of Student Thinking in Reading (FAST-R) Program in Boston Elementary Schools

      December, 2008
      Janet Quint, Susan Sepanik, Janell K. Smith

      This report contains findings from an evaluation of a program in the Boston Public Schools that seeks to improve reading instruction and student learning through one type of data-driven instruction. The program provides teachers with formative assessments that they can use to measure what students do and do not know, along with professional development on how to understand and use the data generated by those assessments. The study looks at FAST-R’s effects on reading scores among third- and fourth-graders.

      November, 2008
      William Corrin, Marie-Andrée Somers, James J. Kemple, Elizabeth Nelson, Susan Sepanik

      This report presents findings from the second year of the Enhanced Reading Opportunities (ERO) study, a demonstration and random assignment evaluation of two supplemental literacy programs — Reading Apprenticeship Academic Literacy and Xtreme Reading — that aim to improve the reading comprehension skills and school performance of struggling ninth-grade readers.

  • Other Publications

  • Projects