Lisa M. Yarnell


Lisa M. Yarnell is a researcher at AIR, with 17 years of experience as an applied statistician. Dr. Yarnell’s primary responsibilities include leading technical reviews of publications, technical documentation, and data products produced by clients including the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and Educational Testing Service (ETS), with a focus on statistical and psychometric support; and producing research papers, technical memos, and study plans for NCES, including the development of theoretical and statistical models, and analysis of large education data sets including NAEP. Methods utilized include multilevel structural equation modeling (MSEM), latent variable modeling, IRT, simulation, and developmental survey methods, primarily through use of Stata and Mplus software. At AIR, she has developed an area of expertise in the sample design and weighting of NAEP, and contributes this knowledge to many of her technical reviews and research products.

In her first year at AIR, Dr. Yarnell was a key analyst for a research study on the creation of “teacher weights” for NAEP data, and led the application of these weights in MSEMs predicting student achievement. Dr. Yarnell has since that time managed a large multi-year portfolio of research examining the viability of various weighting methods for teachers in NAEP, including creating and applying weights using raw NAEP data. She has also produced technical memos on changes in NAEP scores over time as they relate to exclusion data, and rates and types of missing data for teachers in NAEP. In 2018, Dr. Yarnell was awarded funded time to conduct a study on the impact of teachers’ race on Black student achievement, which was published in the American Educational Research Journal in 2018. This work led to subsequent interest from NCES on the potential of charter schools to provide Black students with better match with a more diverse teacher population, and thereby potentially reduce racial achievement gaps.

In her previous postdoctoral work at the University of Southern California, Dr. Yarnell trained in the use of advanced SEM to study alcoholism, including in genetic (twin) analyses, IRT, measurement modeling, and MSEM. Dr. Yarnell has served as a professional reviewer for nine journals from the fields of psychology, public health, and statistics; and additionally serves on the editorial boards for American Journal of Health Behavior and American Journal of Health Behavior. Dr. Yarnell earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in Applied Statistical Modeling and Human Development, with additional training in econometrics and population research studies. Her broad interest is the creative and intelligent use of statistics and research methods to address problems in health and human development, with a particular interest in advanced SEM.