Selected publications

August 24, 2022

Under current test-driven educational accountability policies, there has been a debate about school effectiveness. As conventionally measured by test scores in academic subjects, school effectiveness is often limited and potentially biased. With increasing emphasis on preparing students with both cognitive and noncognitive competencies, educational leaders demand "whole child" approaches for schooling. This study examines whether and how different types of school climate in Eastern versus Western school systems affect whole child development. It applies multivariate multilevel models of school effects using the PISA 2015 datasets from B-S-J-G (China), Korea, Finland, and the U.S., which vary in science achievement and life satisfaction. The study results show cross-national differences in these relationships between Eastern and Western school systems. It sheds new light on the need to balance academic and emotional learning goals and develop a whole school climate with culturally appropriate mixes of both "high expectations/discipline" and "high caring/support" toward whole child development.

June 1, 2022

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) prescribes holistic measures of schools for student success and well-being. However, many early warning systems rely exclusively on the "Attendance, Behavior, Course" (ABC) taxonomy, which misses potentially crucial determinants such as school climate and students' socioemotional learning. We report early findings from a larger project that aims to apply machine learning methods to improve an early warning system by incorporating factors related to school climate and socioemotional learning. These preliminary analyses suggest that a culturally inclusive, socially supportive, and emotionally and physically safe school climate is related to academic success and fewer engagement/behavior problems at the school level. They suggest the promise of integrating these features into early warning systems to help schools change their practices to better support student well-being.


Multilevel or hierarchical models (MLM, HLM) are widely used in analyzing the nested data in educational research over the past decades. The current trend in the research includes systematical thinking of the relationships in education (eg, ecosystem model of human development) and continuous measurement on individual’s performance (eg, formative math assessment). These research focuses require that traditional analyses—structural equation modeling and multivariate analysis, work together with the MLM/HLM. This chapter will introduce two state-of-the-art techniques, which refer to multivariate multilevel (MVML) analysis and multilevel structural equation modeling (MLSEM).


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states new opportunities to redesign educational accountability systems and incorporate non-academic measures. Moving to broad-based school accountability system 2.0 under ESSA calls for “whole community, whole child” approaches. While the U.S. school system is failing to meet the needs of many disadvantaged children and youth across the nation, there are substantial interstate variations. The states that have relatively stronger features of whole community—protective and nurturing family-school-neighborhood environment—would produce better results—more healthy, good, and smart students. Through secondary analyses of national education and health datasets, this study finds that adopting new statewide learning standards alone did not help improve whole-child development, particularly under the challenges of structural poverty and racial inequalities, but on the other hand, it finds evidence that supports well-coordinated government investment in education, health and human services which are crucial for improving whole community environment toward whole-child development. The study draws policy and research implications for improving education accountability and equity.


Immigrant and International College Students’ Learning Gaps

The learning gaps of immigrant and international student groups on the increase in American college campuses raise the challenges of ensuring educational equity and inclusion for minoritized students. The mixed-methods study is based on transformative education and asset model, challenging conventional deficit views about immigrant and international student groups marginalized as aliens in American colleges and universities. Analyses reveal diverse patterns of learning gaps in which high-impact practices influence the chances of 4-year college degree completion with full-time job employment and graduate/professional school enrollment.


Reassessing school effectiveness: Multi-objective value-added measures (MOVAM) of academic and socioemotional learning

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it is imperative that American public schools assess and improve not only academic but also non-academic measures of student learning such as socioemotional skills. The policy shift towards broad-based school accountability calls for reassessing school effectiveness from whole child development perspectives and addressing potential biases and limitations of conventional value-added measures (VAM). The study results show different patterns of academic vs. socioemotional learning gains, and also weak correlations between school effects on the two types of learning outcomes. Nevertheless, the comparisons of academically and socioemotionally effective vs. ineffective schools imply that schools can and should improve both academic and socioemotional learning outcomes through the synergistic improvement of key organizational and instructional conditions.