Rachel Gordon chairs IGPA’s Working Group on Education and Learning. Her research broadly aims to measure and model the contexts of children and families’ lives, often using longitudinal data sets. She has examined numerous contextual and social factors that affect children and families. Some of her work examines the use of child care and preschool quality measures for high-stakes policy purposes, the health outcomes of child care and maternal employment, and the implications of teenagers’ looks for their social and academic achievement. Other work in this area has examined the association between community context and child well-being, the relationships between youth gang participation and delinquency, the causes and consequences of grandmother co-residential support for young mothers, and the evaluation of an innovative job program for young couples.
Professor Gordon has received extensive funding from numerous sources and is currently Principal Investigator (PI) on three external grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Gordon's recent research has examined two widely used measures of quality -- the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R) and Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) -- including their structural validity (dimensions of each scale), response process validity (order, fit and separation of items along underlying dimensions), and predictive validity specific to cutoffs defined in policy system (Quality Rating and Information Systems; Head Start Recompetition). She and her collaborators studied these aspects of validity across over a dozen datasets, using meta-analyses to systematically accumulate results. Their latest efforts in this vein are harmonizing measures of behavioral health in two large nationally representative datasets. Another stream of research contributes to the growing body of research on physical attractiveness as a source of social stratification with wide implications for health, akin to more frequently studied factors like race and gender. Based on the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, the project created and analyzed the largest-ever public repository of physical attractiveness ratings for a cohort from birth into young adulthood. New work in this line is comparing interviewer- and self-ratings of skin tone to direct assessments made with handheld devices and examining how each associates with personal identities and social inequalities.