2021 Awards


Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award

Recipient: Carol D. Lee (Northwestern University)

Dr. Carol D. Lee, Edwina S. Tarry Professor Emerita of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, is president-elect of the National Academy of Education, and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is an AERA Fellow, past President and Vice-President, and a Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences Fellow. Professor Lee’s ground-breaking work in cultural modeling is the standard for understanding and leveraging the rich linguistic and sociocultural repertoires of African American youth. Her research has unabashedly interrupted deficit discourses and practices that have pathologized minoritized youth, and she has inspired a generation of multi-disciplinary scholars to deliberately foreground culture, race and social contexts in the education of children of color.

The Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award is the premier acknowledgment of outstanding achievement and success in education research. It is designed to publicize, motivate, encourage, and suggest models for education research at its best.


Distinguished Public Service Award

Recipient: Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (U.S. Representative, Virginia)

Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott was first elected to Congress from Virginia’s third congressional district  in 1993, and was the first African-American elected to Congress from Virginia since Reconstruction. Both in his current role as the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor and as the ranking member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce form 2015-2018 he has worked tirelessly to advance an agenda of educational equity. He was a primary co-author of the Every Student Succeeds Act in which he sought to improve upon many aspects of the preceding No Child Left Behind Act. Congressman Scott also championed the recent overhauls of the career and technical education system and the nation’s juvenile justice structure. A long-time friend of educational research, he has always listened to evidence and sought to understand the true impact of changes to policy beyond the posturing and politics typical in government.

This award is granted annually in recognition of an individual who has worked to enact or implement policies that are well grounded in education research, or who has been at the forefront of efforts to increase recognition and support for education research.


Excellence in Media Reporting on Education Research Award

Recipient: Nikole Hannah-Jones (Howard University)

The selection committee for the Excellence in Media Reporting reviewed the work of many education reporters and found that Ms. Hannah-Jones stood out for her careful reading of and reporting on the educational research that informs the issues she is writing about, from issues of racial segregation to the inter-generational impact of systemic racism on Black communities and their schools. At the core of her work is her penetrating examination of the research in education, the social sciences, and history that enables her to produce evidence-based journalism that re-writes long-held narratives about issues of race and education in the U.S. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine, and the creator of the 1619 Project, Ms. Hannah-Jones has spent her career investigating racial inequality and injustice, and her reporting has earned her the MacArthur Fellowship, known as the Genius grant, a Peabody Award, two George Polk Awards and the National Magazine Award three times. Hannah-Jones also earned the John Chancellor Award for Distinguished Journalism and was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists and the Newswomen's Club of New York. In 2016, Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, which seeks to increase the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her BA in History and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame.

Established in 2016, this award recognizes a person who has made noteworthy contributions to reporting on findings, bodies of research, or scholarship in the field of education research in any medium of public communication. The award honors a media professional whose work exemplifies promoting a broader vision of the value of education research to society.





Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award

Recipients: Julie A. Edmunds (University of North Carolina, Greensboro), Fatih Unlu (RAND Corporation), Jane L. Furey (University of Michigan), Elizabeth J. Glennie (RTI International), Nina Arshavsky (University of North Carolina, Greensboro)
What Happens When You Combine High School and College? The Impact of the Early College Model on Postsecondary Performance and Completion” 
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 42, Issue 2, June 2020

Early college programs enable students to graduate in 6 years with both a high school diploma and an associate degree or 2 years of college credit.  Prior research reveals the many positive benefits of these programs. In this outstanding study, the authors investigate the longer-term outcomes for graduates who continue on to college. Using a rigorous, lottery-based experimental design, they find that students not only complete college in less time than peers who follow a traditional path through high school and college, but also do so while achieving comparable GPAs. The committee admired the article’s clear findings and nuanced discussion, which have far-reaching implications for educational policymakers and administrators.

This award recognizes the lifelong achievement of Palmer O. Johnson as a dedicated educator and for his pioneering work in educational research and methodology. The award is given for an outstanding article appearing in AERA Open, the American Educational Research JournalEducational Evaluation and Policy AnalysisEducational Researcher, or the Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics.

Review of Research Award

Recipient: Adam Alvarez (Rowan University)

Seeing Race in the Research on Youth Trauma and Education: A Critical Review.” Review of Educational Research, Volume 90, Issue 5, October 2020

This chapter brings a much-needed racialization lens to research and theory about trauma and education. Dr. Alvarez seems to effortlessly weave together scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives to shed light on the role of structural racism in student experiences of and responses to trauma, as well as educators’ assessments of those responses and the interventions we design. The committee was deeply compelled by the potential of this review to advance discourse, research, and practice in education. By centering a need for race-consciousness on the part of both educators and the researchers, Dr. Alvarez reframes trauma away from implicitly deficit-based narratives. He positions it instead as a racial equity issue and a matter of institutional responsibility, providing concrete recommendations and reflections for the education research community 

TThis award is given in recognition of an outstanding review of research article appearing in the Review of Research in Education or the Review of Educational Research.


Outstanding Book Award

Recipient: Kabria Baumgartner (Northeastern University)
In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum America

In Pursuit of Knowledge: Black Women and Educational Activism in Antebellum America by Kabria Baumgartner provides a powerful analysis of black women's "purposeful" educational activism in antebellum America. Typically, historical accounts of desegregation and civil rights in education are situated in the South and often explore the role of established organizations and legal and political machinations that engendered an expansion of rights for African Americans. In this book, Baumgartner uncovers an origin story of sorts and it begins with the struggles of African American women and girls who understood that education was one necessary element in their quest for freedom and self-determination. By centering the courage and wisdom of African American girls and women and by weaving all these stories together, Baumgartner complicates past narratives and paints a fuller picture of the long, continuing struggle for equal education in the United States. This book is an invaluable contribution to African American and women's history that will appeal to educational researchers and a general audience.

The Outstanding Book Award was established to acknowledge and honor the year’s best book-length publication in education research and development.


E.F. Lindquist Award

Recipient: Henry Braun (Boston College)

Henry Braun is the Boisi Professor of Education and Public Policy in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development and the Director of the Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Education Policy at Boston College.  Prior to joining Boston College, he had a distinguished career at ETS.  He is internationally known for his influential contributions to empirical, theoretical, and integrative research in statistics, measurement, and public policy.  His research on the interpretability of test scores and indicators, value-added modeling, international large-scale assessments, and the impact of testing and test use on equity has advanced measurement and testing practices. In recognition of his formidable scholarship, he was elected to the National Academy of Education and was the recipient of the Robert L. Linn Memorial Lecture Award (AERA, Division D).

This award is presented jointly by AERA and ACT in recognition of outstanding applied or theoretical research in the field of testing and measurement. The award is meant to acknowledge a body of research of an empirical, theoretical, or integrative nature rather than a single study.


Early Career Award

Recipient: Huriya Jabbar (University of Texas at Austin)

Dr. Huriya Jabbar, Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is a prolific scholar employing rigorous and creative methodological approaches to studying some of the most pressing education policy issues of our time and engaging both the research and policy communities with her work.  Her scholarship has significantly contributed to our understandings of 1) how school leaders navigated charter schools including their perceptions of competitors, their strategies for gaining a competitive advantage, and how the charter market is both stratified and tiered; 2) how the social structure of the teacher labor market depends on the overall concentration of upon the overall concentration of charter schools in a region. 

Established to honor an individual in the early stages of their career no later than 10 years after receipt of the doctoral degree, this award is granted for study in any field of educational inquiry.



Social Justice in Education Award

Recipient: Sharon Fries-Britt (University of Maryland, College Park)

Dr. Sharon Fries-Britt is Professor of Higher Education, Student Affairs and International Education Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.  Her pioneering work on high achieving Black students has influenced the leadership and practice of social justice across many campuses in the United States. She has also been lauded by her colleagues for her courage and resilience in her ability to influence leaders in systemic systems of power and privilege. Moreover, Dr. Fries-Britt has been recognized as one of the leading voices on equity and inclusion in the sciences. Her scholarship brilliantly engages multiple constituencies from government agencies, to foundations, and to national organizations in advancing social justice by addressing some of higher education’s most challenging problems. – building capacity for diversity, equity and inclusion, increasing success for students and faculty of color, and improving campus racial climate.

Established in 2004, the Social Justice in Education Award honors an individual who has advanced social justice through education research and exemplified the goal of linking education research to social justice.



Distinguished Contributions to Gender Equity in Education Research Award

Recipient: Elizabeth Meyer (University of Colorado, Boulder)

Dr. Elizabeth Meyer has been a pathbreaker throughout her career. Her research focuses on gender and sexual diversity in schools, an intellectual agenda begun at a time when few scholars ventured into these topics. Dr. Meyer created a conceptual framework, gendered harassment, that forms the foundation of research, policy, and practice designed to improve educational environments for LGBTQ youth. Her research on Gay-Straight Alliances, teachers of transgender and gender creative youth, and legal protections and case law form a foundation for the field. Dr. Meyer has set the highest example for scholarly accomplishment in the study of gender in education.

Established in 2006, the Distinguished Contributions to Gender Equity in Education Research Award recognizes individuals within AERA for distinguished research, professional practice, and activities that advance public understanding of gender and/or sexuality at any level in the education community.


Exemplary Contributions to Practice-Engaged Research Award

Recipient: Okhee Lee (New York University)

The selection committee was deeply impressed with Dr. Lee’s application of a research program that has effectively transformed elementary science education with bi-/multi-lingual students. Dr. Lee’s proposition that science learning and language learning mutually support each other by nurturing students to use their full range of meaning-making resources can be observed through Dr. Lee’s tireless work generating applicable classroom-level research that leads to effective practices. Dr. Lee’s fifth-grade science curriculum, Science and Integrated Language (SAIL), enhanced with the addition of a computational thinking model, is being tested by school teachers across the state of New Jersey. The adoption of Dr. Lee’s work demonstrates the powerful application of Dr. Lee’s research designs. Dr. Lee’s research has broad reach and powerful implications for practice. Dr. Lee’s body of work exemplifies the intent of this award through impact and devotion as Dr. Lee’s research continually supports historically minoritized communities.

This award is presented to an education research scholar or scholars in recognition of collaborative project(s) between researchers and practitioners that have had sustained and observable effects on contexts of practice.

Outstanding Public Communication of Education Research Award

Recipient: Daniel Willingham (University of Virginia)

The 2021 AERA Outstanding Public Communication of Education Research Award Committee voted unanimously to award Dr. Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, the 2021 Outstanding Public Communication of Education Research Award based on his significant and extensive contributions to our understanding of cognition as it applies to K-12 education through a variety of media and public venues. 

This award honors scholars exemplary in their capacity to communicate the importance of education research to the broad public, including education communities. It recognizes scholars who have excelled in conveying important findings and research to wide audiences and who have demonstrated the capacity to deepen understanding and appreciation of the value of education research in the public sphere.


Scholars of Color Distinguished Career Contribution Award

Recipient: Zeus Leonardo (University of California, Berkeley)

Dr. Zeus Leonardo’s receipt of the distinguished scholar award is a reflection of his prolific career. He is one of the leading scholars on issues of race and education and utilizes critical theory to produce cutting-edge analysis of social issues in education. Leonardo is perhaps best known for his work in critical whiteness studies, and he has produced scholarship that has had a profound impact on current understandings of the deeply embedded biases at the core of knowledge in the education field. As such, his work is instrumental in understanding how scholars can shift conversations to be more equitable.

Presented to a senior-level scholar, usually 20 years or more after receipt of the doctoral degree, this award is intended to recognize (a) scholars who have made significant contributions to the understanding of issues that disproportionately affect minority populations, and (b) minority scholars who have made a significant contribution to education research and development.  


Scholars of Color Mid-Career Contribution Award

Recipient: Megan Bang (The Spencer Foundation, Northwestern University)

Dr. Megan Bang’s is recognized with the mid-career award for her unique and powerful contributions to indigenous education. Her scholarship is innovative, integrating indigenous knowledge systems with learning sciences. While Dr. Bang has had a prolific career, her approach to advocating through her research distinguishes her scholarship from the larger field. She integrates her commitment to underserved communities into the research process by foregrounding relationships and community throughout, and she utilizes her research to advocate for federal and state policy that acknowledges and centers some of the most critical social and political issues that impact both indigenous and non-indigenous populations.

Presented to a scholar in mid-career who is beyond the first level of professional appointment and for whom 10 or more years have passed since receipt of the doctoral degree, this award is intended to recognize (a) scholars who have made significant contributions to the understanding of issues that disproportionately affect minority populations, and (b) minority scholars who have made a significant contribution to education research and development.


Scholars of Color Early Career Contribution Award

Recipient: Bianca Baldridge (Harvard University)

Dr. Bianca Baldridge is honored with the early career award for her ground-breaking scholarship on community-based educational spaces in communities of color. Through this scholarship, Dr. Baldridge has centered and highlighted often invisible voices, such as youth community workers, in academic discourse. Her scholarship grounds these voices in critiques of power and racial capitalism, thereby advancing knowledge about critical intersections of oppressive social systems and some of the most pressing issues in U.S. society and beyond.

Presented to a scholar who is within the first decade of their career after receipt of a doctoral degree, this award is intended to recognize (a) scholars who have made significant contributions to the understanding of issues that disproportionately affect minority populations, and (b) minority scholars who have made a significant contribution to education research and development.

Nominate for 2022 Awards

Deadline: December 1, 2021. Outstanding Book Award nominations due November 17, 2021.

A Celebration of Education Research: Honoring Excellence and Accomplishment

Watch the video to learn more about the importance of recognizing excellence in education research. 

2020 AERA Virtual Awards Celebration

On October 3, 2020, AERA held a Virtual Awards Celebration to honor and celebrate the recipients of the 2020 AERA-wide awards. View the event program. Read the Highlights story. View the In Memoriam PowerPoint slides.

Designed by Weber-Shandwick   Powered by eNOAH