SSRI Spotlight: Ericka Weathers

As a current assistant professor within the Department of Education Policy Studies, Ericka Weathers uses quasi-experimental methodologies to examine the impact of structural inequality on educational opportunities and outcomes in topic areas such as school finance, school discipline, academic achievement, and special education.

Before coming to Penn State, Weathers worked as a researcher in the Division of Public  Behavioral Health and Justice Policy at the University of Washington. It was there she evaluated education, children’s mental health, and juvenile/adult justice programs, interventions, and policies.

Her commitment to interdisciplinary research, experiences connecting research, policy, and practice, and use of large-scale data to understand educational phenomenon are largely what brought her to Penn State.

“The institutional resources and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration here at Penn State provide an abundance of support to produce rigorous research that has the capacity to inform education policy and practice,” she said.

Her current work explores school segregation as well as federal, state, and local education policies as possible determinants of racial disparities in school district revenue and expenditures. This research is the result of wanting to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms through which resources affect student outcomes.

Weathers says that the most noteworthy finding from her current work examining segregation and school finance is the association between racial segregation and racial disparities in school district funding.

“Even after accounting for poverty and other aspects of school district funding formulas and policies, racial segregation predicts racial disparities in school funding,” Weathers concludes. “This suggests that purportedly race neutral funding formulas and policies may not be entirely race neutral and could be reproducing educational inequality.”

In preparation for her time at Penn State, Weathers earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Hampton University before pursuing a master’s degree in Policy Studies at the University of Washington Bothell and her doctorate in Education Policy at Stanford University.