Molly is a senior research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. She has extensive experience with managing qualitative data collection and analysis, and her field work includes conducting interviews, focus groups, observations, and document analysis. She utilizes both inductive (using an emergent framework to group the data and then look for relationships) and deductive (testing theory) techniques for analysis. She also has experience creating survey items and measures, as well as analyzing survey results. Molly has over 18 years of experience conducing applied research that is relevant, meaningful, and timely for practitioners. She has presented her work to a variety of research, practice, and policy audiences. She is passionate about enhancing educational experiences and opportunities for children living in underserved communities.
As an applied researcher, part of Molly’s work has been to help educational organizations, departments, schools, and programs understand their successes, challenges, and impact, in order to help them improve. Her work as a program evaluator, for example, has included building logic models, creating theories of action, assessing program and department practices and behaviors, identifying gaps, and determining the fit between professional development needs and program or department initiatives. Molly believes that information and insights derived from research are not impactful unless they are translated into accessible formats for policymakers and community stakeholders. To do this, she writes accessible research briefs and reports, and presents research findings in clear and actionable ways. Molly also believes in building collaborative relationships with education partners, including district and school practitioners as well as city and state education leaders, policymakers, and leaders of nonprofit education organizations.
Her recent work has centered on leadership pipelines, how education policies are interpreted and enacted in practice, and how leaders influence school environments, build relationships and trust, and improve outcomes. She has disciplinary training in sociology, philosophy, and history of education, as well as in school organizational theory and development. Molly is an affiliated researcher with the UChicago Consortium on School Research.
Molly is currently the principal investigator (PI) on a three-year study, funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES), investigating the principal pipeline process in Chicago and Tennessee with colleagues from Vanderbilt University, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and the UChicago Consortium on School Research. The purpose of the study is to identify the characteristics of the school leadership pipeline processes that are related to leadership effectiveness and improved student outcomes, particularly in high-needs schools. She is also part of a large team of NORC colleagues studying the implementation and impact of a preschool expansion effort in Tempe, Arizona.
Prior to joining NORC, Molly worked at the UChicago Consortium on School Research where she served as co-PI on two studies investigating the long-term impacts of closing nearly 50 Chicago elementary schools in 2013 on families, school leaders, staff, and students. Molly led the qualitative portion of each study, which resulted in two policy- and practitioner-focused research reports as well as numerous presentations of the work. The studies were funded by the Spencer Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust.
University of Minnesota (Twin Cities)
University of Wisconsin (Madison)
University of Wisconsin (Madison)
New Studies Examine Diversity Among CPS Principals, Explore Their Previous Experiences
Press Release | January 31, 2023
opens in new tab"Understanding Children’s Transitions from Head Start to Kindergarten: A Literature Review and Theory of Change."
Report | November 3, 2021
opens in new tab"Relational Trust in Valparaíso, Chile and Illinois Schools: Surprising Consistency and Further Questions."
Journal Article | September 29, 2020
opens in new tab"Supporting Social, Emotional and Academic Development: Research Implications for Educators."
Report | October 3, 2018
opens in new tab"On the Path to Becoming a Teacher: The Landscape of Student Teaching in Chicago Public Schools."
Report | September 8, 2018
opens in new tab"School Closings in Chicago: Staff and Student Experiences and Academic Outcomes."
Report | May 9, 2018
opens in new tab"Political Cultures in Education: Emerging Perspectives."
Book | December 1, 2015
opens in new tab"A First Look at the 5Essentials in Illinois Schools."
Report | June 12, 2015