Skip Navigation
November 2011

From the National Center for Education Research (NCER)

NCER Grantee Roy Levy Wins 2010 Presidential Award for Excellence to Education Science

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Sixteen federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America's preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions. The White House, following recommendations from participating agencies, confers the awards annually. The U.S. Department of Education has participated in the PECASE program since 2006.
Dr. Roy LevyDr. Roy Levy

Roy Levy of Arizona State University, a National Center for Education Research grantee, has received the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers: the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Dr. Levy was one of the 94 researchers named by President Obama as a PECASE recipient, and all recipients were honored at a White House ceremony in October.

Dr. Levy, an assistant professor in the School of Social and Family Dynamics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, was recognized during the PECASE ceremony "for his contributions toward the development of new psychometric models and methods to support the next generation of complex assessments and for his ongoing national and international service in support of measurement development to inform career pathway decisions for students around the world." He has devoted his career to increasing the depth and quality of information that can be gleaned from assessments and is currently developing a procedure for verifying and identifying the number of student skills that are measured by complex assessment items. He is also developing software to implement the procedure, and it will be developed and made freely available to researchers. For more information about Dr. Levy's IES-funded project, Generalized Dimensionality Assessment for Multidimensional Psychometric Models, click here.

In addition, Dr. Levy has worked with Cisco on improving their assessment activities in the Cisco Networking Academy Program, seeking to ensure that assessments used for career pathway decisions around the world are both technically accurate and valid assessments of students' knowledge, skills, and abilities.

In an interview, Dr. Levy talks about how he became interested in psychometrics, statistical modeling, and assessment design; the questions he most wants to answer through his research; and how the PECASE award will influence his future work.

Tell us a little about your background—how did you become interested in your research topics?

As an undergraduate, I became interested in philosophy, specifically how we know what we know and how we justify the inferences and claims we make. This led me to statistics, assessment, and their intersection in the field of psychometrics. I then became interested in how we use assessments to make inferences and the tools we have to critique those assessments to investigate where they work well and where they break down. More recently, my research has evolved to focus on those areas in complex assessments that attempt to simultaneously measure multiple skills and how students bring them to bear in solving problems. I've had the great fortune to collaborate with excellent researchers in academia and industry, and this has allowed me to explore these topics in ways that have led both to the development of new statistical procedures and their implementation in real-world settings. For instance, I have collaborated with educators, psychologists, and other experts to distinguish different classes of subjects with borderline personality disorder, to explore gender differences in the relationship between post-traumatic stress and substance use, to understand the role of happiness in freshman student retention in post-secondary education, and to measure teachers knowledge of and confidence in regards to teaching students with epilepsy.

What questions do you most want to answer in your program of research?

I would like to develop statistical tools for the next generation of assessments. These tools include ways to take what students do in complex innovative assessment environments and make sound inferences and ways to verify that our inferences are indeed justified or indicate when they may be unwarranted or compromised.

How will receipt of this award influence your future work?

It strengthens my commitment to pursue these topics. To receive this award reinforces my belief that these pursuits are important to the broader community in education.

Personal thoughts on the ceremony to honor you?

I was thrilled to learn I was going to receive the award, and that was only amplified by the ceremony, which was truly a wonderful event that I'll remember for the rest of my life.