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David Woo

Assistant Professor | K12


David Woo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah. Before starting his career in higher education, he worked as a high school English teacher on Chicago’s South side for six years. While working as a teacher and grade level lead, he grew interested in the influence of school leadership and policy on educational outcomes for students of color and students from low-income families. To gain the theoretical foundations and quantitative research methods he would need to interrogate the ways that school leaders can support or hinder the learning of students from marginalized communities, he completed an M.Ed. in Instructional Leadership with a concentration in Education Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago before pursuing a Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations. His research centers on understanding how education policy and research can prepare and support school leaders to be effective instructional leaders and organization managers. Some of his current research examines the impact of assistant principals on school culture, the relationship between prior work experiences on early career principal performance, and the factors that influence collective bargaining in the charter school context.

For David, school leadership is an important policy lever for continuous school improvement and equitable outcomes in education. His experience as a teacher in an economically marginalized, predominantly African-American neighborhood in Chicago shapes and drives his research agenda. He has seen firsthand how effective leadership can lead to improved outcomes for students, and how ineffective leadership can impede the educational program of schools. His past research has earned the Emerging Scholar Award (2015) by AERA’s Law and Education SIG, and he is both a Jackson Scholar and a Clark Seminar Alumnus. He has published articles in Educational Researcher, Educational Administration Quarterly, and Teachers College Record.

Areas of Expertise

Administration / Policy


  • Woo, D. S. and Marianno, B. D. (In Press). After the Vote: Unionization’s impact on Chicago’s charter schools. In D. D’Amico (Ed.), Walkout: Teacher Militancy, Activism, and School Reform (n.p.). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Bartanen, B. Rogers, L. K., and Woo, D. S. (2020). Assistant Principal Mobility and its Relationship with Principal Turnover. Educational Researcher. Advance online publication.
  • Grissom, J. A., Mitani, H., and Woo, D. S. (2019). Principal Preparation Programs and Principal Outcomes. Educational Administration Quarterly, 55(1), 73-115.
  • Superfine, B. and Woo, D. S. (2018). Teacher Unions, Charter Schools, and the Public/Private Distinction in Education Law and Policy. Teachers College Record, 120(10), 1-28.
  • Genao, S. and Woo, D. S. (2021). Embracing Antiracism Principal Preparation Program Beyond COVID-19. UCEA Review, Winter 2021, 20-22.


Most of David’s training and research experience in education policy analysis has employed quantitative research methods. David’s research, including his dissertation, often uses large-scale administrative data sets accessed through the Tennessee Education Research Alliance and the Utah Education Policy Center. Although his strengths lie primarily in quantitative methods, he also has substantial experience in qualitative and mixed methods studies. He currently has an ongoing qualitative study aimed at understanding the contextual factors that impact collective bargaining in charter management organizations across two cities (funded by the Eugenia A. Kemble Research Grant) and a mixed methods study examining expansion of enrollments at Utah’s online charter schools (funded by the Utah Leading through Effective, Actionable and Dynamic Education program at the Utah State Board of Education).

  • Woo, D. S. (PI), Examining the Relationship between School Outcomes and Assistant Principals' Duties, College of Education VPR Seed Grant, University of Utah. Funded: 2022, $22,000.
  • Woo, D. S. (PI), Rogers, L. K. (Co-PI), Darling-Aduana, J. (Researcher), Bright Spots in Utah’s Implementation of Expanded Distance Learning: Evidence from an enrollment increase at Utah Virtual Academy, Institutional Research Partner Grant, ULEAD Education. Funded: 2021-2022, $24,111.
  • Wesley, W. J. (PI), Woo, D. S. (Co-PI), PE and LRE, Research Incentive Seed Grant, University of Utah. Funded: 2021, $20,000.
  • Woo, D. S. (PI), Fraser, S. (Co-PI), and Rorrer, A. K. (Co-PI), Course redesign in instructional design and assessment, University Teaching Grant, University of Utah. Funded: 2020-2021, $6,000.
  • Woo, D. S. (PI), Marianno, B. D. (Co-PI), and Kennedy, K. E. (Co-PI), A case study of charter school unionization in Los Angeles and Chicago Eugenia Kemble Research Grant, Shanker Institute. Funded: 2018-2019, $2,000.

Honors & Awards

  • Clark Scholar, UCEA/AERA Division A
  • Jackson Scholar, UCEA
  • 2nd Place Poster Winner, APPAM
  • Emerging Scholar Award, AERA Law and Education SIG