Director, Early Education Research and Policy
Nneka Ibekwe-Okafor is a PhD candidate in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods division at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education. Her research sits at the intersection of developmental science, early childhood education and social policy. She investigates the social determinants of children’s academic development. Specifically, identifying risk and protective factors at the family, school and community levels, in efforts to promote the optimal academic development of children from vulnerable populations.
As a Society for Research in Child Development Pre-doctoral State Policy Fellow, Nneka worked with the Office of Early Learning in the Delaware Department of Education, with policymaking, program implementation, and evaluation of early childhood education initiatives. She developed an evaluation plan for a teacher education pilot study, wrote sections of the state’s Preschool Development Grant and analyzed the state’s Teaching Strategies Gold Kindergarten Readiness Assessment data. She lead the initiative for developing a statewide integrated data system and conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the cost of implementing universal Pre-K in the state of Delaware. She also assisted with the development of the state’s first Focus on Family, Family Services Conference which brings together service providers from Early Head Start, Head Start, and the Early Childhood Assistance Program.
Previously, Nneka worked as a Manager for the Center for Education Policy Research and as a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University. Before delving into research and policy, Nneka worked as a Social Worker in East Los Angeles and New York City. She worked with children and families involved in the child welfare, foster care, and juvenile justice systems. She has published articles related to assessing the effects of early intervention on early academic skills, identifying risk and protective factors across ecological levels to identify intervention opportunities, and ways to improve the child welfare system. She holds an Ed.M. from Harvard University in Prevention Science Research and a M.S.W. from Columbia University. In her undergraduate studies, Nneka majored in Sociology and African American Studies and was a NCAA Division I volleyball player at the University of California, Davis.