DINAH SPARKS, M.B.A., Ph.D.
Founder and President of Activate. Dinah has training and professional experience in quantitative and qualitative research, as well as financial management in the private and public sectors. Immediately prior to founding Activate, Dinah was a research analyst on the Education Statistics Support Institute Network (ESSIN), serving the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Her experience with NCES has given Dinah a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges associated with large and complex survey data. Dinah’s research interests include teacher policy, remediation at the postsecondary level, and language minority student populations. Dinah’s professional experience also includes school district finance, community outreach, and economic research. She received her M.B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. in education policy and leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park.
President, Activate Research, Inc.
Jan 2014 – Present
Founder and President of certified woman-owned small business specializing in quantitative and qualitative social science research of education, with plans to expand to healthcare, and employment issues.
- Procure contracts and develops relationships with external partners to support research and evaluation of the social sciences
- Produce reports and work product for multi-year federal contracts
- Conduct qualitative research for review of state-level funding in Maryland schools
- Develop and execute marketing and growth plan for Activate Research
Researcher, American Institutes for Research
Jun 2010 – Dec 2013
Developed Statistics in Briefs for the Data Development Program at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) that analyze data to address topics of policy and research interest in a brief format
- Developed annual slate of proposed publications
- Coordinated publication planning and production with multiple departments at NCES
- Planned and executed data analyses
- Authored, co-authored, edited briefs and other publications
- Responded to data requests from government officials, public users, and institutions directed to NCES
Assistant Director, R.H. Smith School of Business (UMD)
College Park, MD
Aug 2008 – Jun 2010
Served as academic, career, and student life advisor to undergraduate students
- Advised prospective and current students interested in Accounting, Entrepreneurship, International Business, and Marketing majors
- Counseled students on career goals and review student resumes and cover letter materials
- Assisted with planning, coordinating, and funding of co-curricular and extracurricular events and activities for Smith undergraduate programs
Financial Services Manager/School District Financial Advisor,
Santa Barbara County Education Office
Santa Barbara, CA
Oct 2000 – Jun 2003
Managed the external business services offered to 23 school districts including payroll, school claims and financial accounting
- Directly supervised payroll manager and two financial staff; skip-level supervisor to payroll and school claims staff of five
- Implemented new state-wide school financial accounting system beginning fiscal year 2001-02
- Served as a resource to all district school business officials on financial accounting issues regarding categorical and general use funding
- Conducted workshops and training sessions on financial accounting, budget development and fiscal year-end close
- Managed the creation of financial and budget reports for school districts
- Served as liaison between the Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller — office and school districts
Ph.D., Education Policy and Leadership
University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, MD
M.B.A., Public and Nonprofit Management
Boston University School of Management, Boston, MA
B.S., Business Administration
California State University at Northridge, Northridge, CA
La Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Aug 1991 – May 1992
Hoyer, K. M., & Sparks, D. (2017). How principals in public and private schools used their time in 2011-12 (NCES 2018-054). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Mamedova, S., Sparks, D., & Hoyer, K. M. (2017). Adult education attainment and assessment scores: A cross-national comparison (NCES 2018-007). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Hoyer, K. M., & Sparks, D. (2017). Instructional time for third- and eighth-graders in public and private schools: School year 2011-12 (NCES 2017-076). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Molefe, A., Burke, M. R., Collins, N., Sparks, D., & Hoyer, K. (2017). Postsecondary educational expectations and attainment for rural and nonrural students (REL 2017–forthcoming). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest.
Sparks, D., & Malkus, N. (2016). Teacher job satisfaction (NCES 2016-131). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Bahr, S., & Sparks, D. (2016). Changes in America’s public school facilities: From school year 1998–99 to school year 2012–13 (NCES 2016-074). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Sparks, D., & Malkus, N. (2015). Public school teacher autonomy in the classroom across school years 2003–04, 2007–08, and 2011–12 (NCES 2015-089). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Malkus, N., Hoyer, K. M., & Sparks, D. (2015). Teaching vacancies and difficult-to-staff teaching positions in public schools (NCES 2015-065). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Cunningham, B., Hoyer, K. M., & Sparks, D. (2015). Gender differences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) interest, credits earned, and NAEP performance in the 12th grade (NCES 2015-075). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Sparks, D., Zhang, J., & Bahr, S. (2015). Public elementary and secondary school arts education instructors (NCES 2015-085). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Sparks, D., & Malkus, N. (2013). First-year undergraduate remedial coursetaking: 1999, 2000, 2003–04, 2007–08 (NCES 2013-013). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
Rice, J. K., Roellke, C. F., Sparks, D., Kolbe, T. (2009). Piecing together the teacher policy landscape: A policy-problem typology. Teachers College Record, 111(2), 51–546.
Rice, J. K., Roellke, C. F., Sparks, D. (2006). Hitting the target? Multi-level case study findings from three states. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.
Power and Principals: How Teacher Perceptions of Autonomy and Administrative Support Influence Teacher Mobility, Association for American Education Finance and Policy, Washington, DC: February 26-28, 2015 (with Nat Malkus).
Exploratory analysis of gender gaps in STEM course-taking, performance, and affective disposition using data from the 2009 NAEP High School Transcript Study. American Educational Research Association, Philadelphia, PA; April 3 – 7, 2014. (third author with Brittany C. Cunningham and Kathleen Hoyer)
Relationship between principal and teacher mobility. American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, Canada; April 12–17, 2014. (second author with Nat Malkus)
Teacher Policy-Problem Typology. Panel presentation for the American Education Finance Association, Denver, CO, March 23–25, 2006. (with Jennifer King Rice)