Jessica Heppen

President, AIR

Jessica Heppen is president of AIR, overseeing the Institute’s Health, Human Services, and International Development divisions, as well as human resources and the business development. She became AIR’s seventh president in January 2023, succeeding current CEO, David Myers. As part of a planned leadership transition, Dr. Heppen will become president and CEO of AIR in early 2024. She is the first woman to lead AIR in its 76-year history.

A nationally recognized expert in education policy and practice, Dr. Heppen joined AIR in 2004 as a social scientist and program evaluator and has held several key roles during her tenure. She most recently served as senior vice president and director of AIR’s Human Services Division, overseeing a portfolio of over 500 active research, evaluation, and technical assistance projects across education, workforce, and youth, family, and community development.

Dr. Heppen’s research is primarily focused on education topics including educational technology and data use in schools; high school improvement, dropout prevention, and transitions; teacher professional development; literacy; and mathematics education. Her research has a consistent emphasis on improving academic outcomes and life opportunities for diverse learners and vulnerable populations.

Dr. Heppen has designed and led rigorous evaluations across a range of policy relevant topics, including 10 large-scale randomized controlled trials. These include four studies of the effects online learning, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Science Foundation. The first in this series of studies, Access to Algebra I: Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students, examined the effects of offering an online course to broaden access to Algebra I on students’ achievement and later course-taking patterns. A second study, Efficacy of Online Credit Recovery in Algebra I for At-Risk Ninth Graders, examined compared online Algebra I for credit recovery to standard face-to-face versions of the course for helping at-risk ninth-graders get back on track toward graduation. A third study examined the impact of the Intensified Algebra program, a blended model for at-risk students in extended-time algebra classes, and the fourth is examining the impact of a blended model for credit recovery in both Algebra I and English on high school students’ learning outcomes, course-taking patterns, and graduation rates.

She has also published articles, briefs, and practical tools focused on high school improvement and improving graduation rates and post-school outcomes. Dr. Heppen has led several analyses using state and local data of the strongest predictors of student outcomes including high school graduation, dropout, and college enrollment, and spearheaded the development of AIR’s Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System (EWIMS) through the federally funded National High School Center. After piloting and improving the model over 10 years, she oversaw a large-scale evaluation of the impact of EWIMS on reducing chronic absence and course failure rates. She has also designed and led rigorous studies of targeted dropout prevention strategies, including Check & Connect, a mentoring program for high school students. She is currently leading an IES-funded impact evaluation of Transition Supports for Youth with Disabilities.

She recently led the Impact Evaluation of Parent Messaging Strategies on Student Attendance, which developed an adaptive text messaging strategy aimed at reducing chronic absence among elementary school students. The study is examining the impact of the text messages on student attendance using a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART).

Dr. Heppen has also designed and led studies on literacy, mathematics, and teacher professional development. For example, she led the Impact Evaluation of Math Professional Development, a national study commissioned by IES of the effects of a content-intensive mathematics professional development program on upper elementary teachers’ knowledge, classroom practice, and their students’ achievement. She is currently leading the IES-funded Comprehensive Literacy Program Evaluation, a study of the implementation of the Striving Readers federal grant program, and the impact of its successor program, the Comprehensive Literacy State Development grant program.

In addition to conducting rigorous evaluations of policy-relevant educational programs, she has developed particular interest in infusing innovative methods into continuous improvement efforts to support robust R&D. Prior to working at AIR, Dr. Heppen conducted evaluation studies of educational technology programs in New York City secondary schools.

Jessica Heppen

Ph.D., Social Psychology, Rutgers University