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Professor Bowers

Dr. Alex J. Bowers

Dr. Alex J. Bowers

Alex J. Bowers is an Associate Professor of Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he works to help school leaders use the data that they already collect in schools in more effective ways to help direct the limited resources of schools and districts to specific student needs. His research focuses on the intersection of effective school and district leadership, organization and HR, data driven decision making, student grades and test scores, student persistence and dropouts. His work also considers the influence of school finance, facilities, and technology on student achievement. Dr. Bowers studies these domains through the application of data science, and big data analytics, such as data visualization analytics, multilevel and growth mixture modeling, and cluster analysis heatmap data dashboards. He earned his Ph.D. in K12 Educational Administration from Michigan State University, and previous to teaching and education research, spent a decade as a cancer researcher in the biotechnology industry, with a M.S. in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology, and a B.S. in Biochemistry. Dr. Bowers is the recipient of multiple awards, including being the first person to win both the AERA Emerging Scholar Award for Division A (Administration, Organization and Leadership), and the UCEA Jack A. Culbertson Award for outstanding early faculty research, both in 2012. He was named an Outstanding Reviewer of the Year for the journals American Educational Research Journal (2009), Educational Administration Quarterly (2012 & 2016) and the Journal of Educational Administration (2018). Dr. Bowers is a faculty advisor to the Harvard Strategic Data Project, is an Associate Editor of the journal Educational Administration Quarterly and currently serves on the editorial boards of the journals American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Educational Administration, and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and is co-editor of volume 4 (2013) volume 5 (2014) and volume 6 (2015) of the Information Age Publishing book series International Research on School Leadership. He has served as Principal or co-Principal Investigator on over $1.5 million in externally funded research grant projects. In 2019, Dr. Bowers served as a Thomas J. Alexander Fellow at the OECD headquarters (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in Paris, France.  Click to proceed to Teachers College, Columbia University Faculty Profile.


Our Team


Yilin  Pan

Yilin Pan

Yilin Pan is currently a post-doctoral researcher jointly hired by the Department of Educational Policy and Social Analysis and the Department of Organization Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. She specializes in cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis, decision-making in resource allocation and Bayesian statistics. Dr. Pan’s research aims to facilitate the utilization of research evidence to better guide policymakers and practitioners' decision-making about resource allocation. She has been working on applying Bayesian statistics to improve the methodologies that generate research evidence. Her attempts focus on localizing evidence of program effectiveness and cost obtained from evaluation settings to reflect the student and teacher characteristics of a specific decision-making setting, the subjective judgments of the local decision makers and the values of the local stakeholders. Yilin Pan earned a B.A. in English Literature and Linguistics and a M.A. in Higher Education at Tsinghua University, P. R. China, and a Ph.D. in Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to her current job, she worked as a consultant at the World Bank's education sector. 

Graduate Students

Kenneth  Graves

Kenneth Graves

Kenneth E. Graves is a Ph.D. student in the Education Leadership program at Teachers College, Columbia University, where his current research broadly focuses on content-specific leadership in STEM, particularly on how principals enact technology leadership for social justice. His work also considers ethical and legal issues in technology leadership, leadership for computer science (CS) education, data-driven decision making for school improvement, and quantitative methodologies. Furthermore, his teaching interests lie in preparing future principals and technology leaders for instructional leadership in the digital age in topics such as designing innovative professional learning experiences for teachers, evaluating new technology initiatives, CS teaching methods and pedagogy, as well as using data visualizations for school reporting. Kenny has won several awards for research and teaching, including a 2016-2017 AERA Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant Award for a study where he uses Latent Class Analysis (LCA) with national-level data to investigate the extent to which there is a typology of technology-using teachers and leaders in order to understand the intersection of technology-using teacher and leader types, school contexts, and sociocultural factors in U.S. public schools. Kenny also just completed a summer internship as a Staff Associate at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University, as part of an internship sponsored by the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub, where he is working with the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC) and the NYCDOE to produce big data visualizations from the CS4All initiative to assist the organizations with evidence-based improvement. Prior to research, Kenny was an award-winning teacher and school leader in several schools. Kenny holds a M.A. in Instructional Technology and Media from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.A. in English, Secondary Education, and Latin American/Iberian Studies from the University of Richmond.

Sarah  Weeks

Sarah Weeks

Sarah Weeks is a Ph.D. student in the Education Leadership program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Sarah’s interests include how teachers, students and school leaders use of student learning assessments and other data sources inform classroom and school improvement efforts.  She is particularly interested in the impact of increasing teacher and school leader capacity in the use of student-centered assessment, personalized learning and mastery-based learning practices on equity. During the 2018-19 academic year, Sarah is a Doctoral Research Fellow on the National Science Foundation funded project Building Community and Capacity for Data-Intensive Evidence-Based Decision Making in Schools and Districts.  Prior to beginning her doctoral work, Sarah spent 17 years working in public and independent schools in New York and New Jersey as a teacher, principal, district leader and consultant. She holds a BA in Architecture from Yale University, a MA in Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies from Stanford University, and a MSEd in Educational Administration and Supervision from Pace University/New Leaders for New Schools.

April  Bang

April Bang

April H. Bang is a leadership educator, researcher, and practitioner specializing in adaptive leadership, transformative learning and adult development, systemic change, and collaborative capacity building. She is an advanced doctoral student in the Adult Learning and Leadership program of the Organization and Leadership Department at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her current research integrates her specialized interests and adult learning concentration with leadership and data analytics. Prior to her doctoral studies, she taught leadership to undergraduate students at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea and has diverse and extensive experience as a practitioner working across the fields of human rights, criminal justice reform, international rule of law development, and economic policy, including work at the Vera Institute of Justice, International Justice Mission, Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Human Rights Commissions and Criminal Justice, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. April is also developing as an artist. With an on-going curiosity to examine and demonstrate how art could foster individual and collective transformation, she has started to exhibit her visual artwork in galleries and has co-curated a community art installation in Harlem. She is passionate about art and social impact, and her experiential and scholarly research on the restorative and transformative power of the arts in conflict resolution led to an article in the Journal of Transformative Education. She is looking forward to learning and contributing as a member of the Education Leadership Data Analytics Research Group and further integrating her varied experiences and interests. She holds an MPP from Harvard Kennedy School, an Ed.M. in Adult Learning and Leadership from Columbia University, and a BA in economics from Smith College.

Seulgi  Kang

Seulgi Kang

Seulgi (Abigail) Kang is an M.A. candidate in Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her main research interest is devising better distribution methods of school financing using both economics strategies and educational theories. Born and raised in South Korea, she is highly interested in case studies of reunifying countries like Germany, Vietnam, and other former USSR countries, and she will deeply focus on her research in running the virtual scenario of school financing strategies of North Korea and South Korea under the assumption of reunification of these two very different countries in the economics of education. Prior to joining Teachers’ College, Seulgi graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, majoring in Economics and minoring in Educational Policy Studies. She also worked in Campus Events Service Office of Wisconsin Union as a head intern for three years during her undergraduate. After graduation, she worked as a writing teacher in a high-school that she graduated from. She’s also a novel writer, a podcast producer, and a film photographer.

Burcu  Pekcan

Burcu Pekcan

Burcu Pekcan is an Ed.D. student in the Health Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. With an interdisciplinary focus on economics, health, and education, Burcu aims to generate research on the impact of specific health policies on educational outcomes and how education policies impact public health in developing countries. She is particularly interested in guiding decision-makers to use evidence to implement cost-effective programs that will lead to social and economic progress. Burcu has been a teacher in the New York City Public School System for 16 years and has held roles in the School Leadership Team, Advisory Board and Inquiry Team where she gained extensive experience in utilizing data to inform school-based decisions. Burcu earned a M.A. in Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University,  a M.S. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from City College of the City University of New York, and a B.A. in English Language Teaching from Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Luronne  Vaval

Luronne Vaval

Luronne Vaval is a Ph.D. student in the Science Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is interested in Physics Education Research (PER), which involves research related to the teaching and learning of physics. More specifically, her work examines identifying student difficulty with representational fluency at the undergraduate level. In the research group, Lou served as a Doctoral Research Fellow during the 2016-17 academic year and will continue her work as a Graduate Assistant during the 2017-18 academic year. Her work in the group centers around investigating different growth or decline trajectories as they relate to STEM high school, college, and early career outcomes using latent class analysis (LCA) and growth mixture modeling (GMM) to. Lou holds a M.S. in Applied Statistics from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.S. in Physics from the University of Florida.

Yihan  Zhao

Yihan Zhao

Yihan Zhao is a current Ph.D. student of Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics at Teachers College, Columbia University since 2014. Since 2016, she has been a Doctoral Research Fellow on the National Science Foundation funded project Using Big Data to Investigate Longitudinal Education Outcomes through Visual Analytics. Her research focuses on educational data mining and student psychometric measurement. Her work in the research group focuses on educational data mining and multilevel and growth mixture modeling of large nationally generalizable datasets. In the research lab, her main role is to process education data using “big data” analytics in open source statistical software, such as R, and interpret the results for application by education leaders, researchers and policymakers. She has special interests in cluster analysis heatmaps and Latent Class Analysis. Yihan earned her M.S. degree in K12 Educational Administration from the Ohio State University, and hopes to apply data analytics to practical issues of teaching and learning in schools.


Xiaoliang  Zhou

Xiaoliang Zhou

Xiaoliang Zhou is a third-year doctoral student in the program of Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research interests include structural equation modeling, longitudal data analysis, diagnostic cognitive modeling, and big data and machine learning techniques. He is also interested in applying these models and skills to analysis of k-12 education data, the reason why he is currently a doctoral research fellow working for Dr. Bowers’ project Using Big Data to Investigate Longitudinal Education Outcomes through Visual Analytics. The objective of the research is to utilize visual techniques in other big data areas to discover STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students’ curricula selection and performance patterns, so that we can predict their early career outcomes. Zhou earned his M.A. degree in Linguistics and Literature from Beijing Foreign Studies University in 2008 and his M.S. degree in Applied Statistics from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2016. Previously, he was a full-time professor on academic writing, research methods, reading, and translation and interpretation for five and a half years in Beijing Information and Technology University as well as a part-time English trainer for a decade in 30 language training institutions.

Sen   Zhang

Sen Zhang

Sen Zhang is a current doctoral candidate in Educational Administration at Beijing Normal University. She joined the Education Leadership Data Analytics Research Group in October 2017 as a visiting doctoral student supervised by Prof. Alex Bowers. Her research focuses on school leadership and social-emotional learning. Her work in the research group focuses on the effect of principals’ authentic leadership on teachers’ performance in the context of K-12 in China. The purpose of her study is to utilize data analysis techniques to model the mechanism of the interaction between principal leadership and a series of teacher behaviors. In addition to contributing to the literature on principal leadership in the Chinese context, this study also provides guidance on how to inspire teacher’s positive behaviors through enhancing principal leadership and improving school organizational context. Sen earned her M.S. degree in K-12 Educational Administration from Beijing Normal University in 2016.