Projects for 2009-10

The Effect of Pitch Count

Description: Major League Baseball managers are obsessed with pitch count–the total number of pitches thrown by a pitcher. Part of the reason is a belief that a pitcher starts to loose effectiveness after say, 100, pitches. This project will investigate if there is merit to this belief. Using a database consisting of all pitches thrown in the majors over the last 3 years, we will look at variables such as velocity, location, outcome, even the amount of break to see if there are any statistically significant indicators of declining pitching performance as a function of the number of pitches thrown. Background required for this project includes experience with R (or an equivalent high-level statistical language), an interest in baseball, and at least STAT 272. Contact: Professor Richey (

Faculty: Matthew Richey, MSCS

Helpful Background: A working knowledge of R is required.

Curriculum-Based Measurement Longitudinal Research with Elementary School English Language Learners

Description: It is frequently difficult to assess English Language Learners’ ongoing progress in the general education curriculum and their acquisition of English language proficiency. While St. Paul utilizes annual state tests (i.e., Test of Emerging Academic English) to assess student English language proficiency, a program of formative assessment is also important to ensure that instruction can be designed to address student needs. It is vital that the assessments teachers give to their students are valid and reliable. A program of such assessment, curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is currently utilized in St. Paul mainly for screening purposes, but special education teachers have been using CBM to adjust instruction to meet the needs of their students. Could ELL teachers similarly utilize CBM to adjust instruction and monitor ELL student progress in school? The first research question for this study is: What is the validity and reliability of curriculum-based writing measures in writing as indicators of general writing performance for elementary-school English language learners? A secondary question is: Can CBM measures be used to progress monitor the English writing development for ELL students? Based on preliminary results from last year, it seems that CBM measures could be used to monitor progress in writing, but the question remains: How should teachers utilize the information gleaned from weekly progress monitoring; how can that inform writing instruction? Nearly weekly data on two different writing CBM prompts were collected on area school children to investigate whether type of prompt or scoring procedure or time allocated to the writing produces a more reliable and valid indicator of writing skill. Interest centers on the average slope of growth across the measures and whether the slope varies based on scores of more “acceptable” measures of writing ability (“standardized” assessments).

Faculty: Heather Campbell, Education

Helpful Background: Stat 316 Multileveling Modeling

Curriculum-Based Measurement Writing Research with Secondary Students: Computer vs Handwriting

Description: One drawback to measuring students’ progress in writing is the time it takes to administer, read, and score writing samples. We administered writing prompts (narrative and expository) to students utilizing both handwriting and computer conditions. The benefit to having students respond to the prompt using the computer is that a computer program can be used to score student samples — a significant time saver. We want to know if students score differently based on the mode used to respond to the writing prompt as well as whether or not students’ scores differ on the type of prompt to which the students responded.

Faculty: Heather Campbell, Education

Helpful Background: Stat 316 Multileveling Modeling

Measuring Alumni and Parent Engagement

Description: Increasing alumni and parent engagement with the College can yield a host of individual and institutional benefits including a host of expanded opportunities for students such as internship, employment and volunteer positions. As a first step toward invigorating participation in campus life among our alumni and parents, we need to evaluate the effectiveness of our alumni and parent engagement efforts using statistical samples and methods.
Upon completion of the initial phase, team members will use the above data to:
• Identify critical factors affecting alumni and parent (dis) satisfaction and (dis) engagement;
• Create a scale of engagement which will allow us to track and segment alumni and parents based on measures of engagement;
• Make recommendations for activities and means of involvement that seem most likely to move alumni and parents from a less-engaged to more-engaged status.

Faculty: Jackie Henry, Advancement

Are Placement Exams Working? An analysis of placement math and chemistry placement data.

Description: Several St. Olaf departments use placement exams to help determine which St. Olaf course is the right course for an incoming student. In chemistry and mathematics, we have evidence that these exams are good predictors, that is, the students following the recommendations are successful in their St. Olaf chemistry courses. We wonder whether the exams themselves can be streamlined to take less student time. Are certain questions predictors of success in courses? Are other questions on the exams necessary? This project involves correlating responses on individual questions to class performance and may be applicable to several on-campus departments.

Faculty: Mary M. Walczak, Evaluation and Assessment and Kay Smith, MSCS

Statistical Applications in Exercise Science

Description: Students in the exercise science senior seminar class choose a research topic early in the fall semester. CIR students will advise and guide students in the design of a study and data collection procedure. By the end of the first semester, the exercise science students will have written an abstract, introduction, review of the literature, and a proposed methodology. Typically, three or four seniors continue with their projects (i.e., collect data) in order to achieve departmental distinction by the end of spring semester. CIR students will continue to advice students and in some cases participate in data collection. Together the exercise science students and the CIR fellows will be involved in the data analysis during interim and spring for those moving toward distinction. We are excited about the possibility of getting much more from our studies with the collaboration of the statistics students.

Faculty: Cindy Book, Exercise Science

Statistical Applications in the Study of the Argentinian Economy


Faculty: Anthony Becker and Rebecca Judge, Economics

Statistician as Collaborator: Survey of St. Olaf Students SOAN 371 (Foundations of Social Science Research)

Description: Each year, students in SOAN 371 (Foundations of Social Science Research) conduct a random-sample survey of St. Olaf students on a topic of general interest, analyze the data, and present their results in various forums. Recents years’ topics have included student satisfaction, use of electronic communication, and close relationships. This year, we will again analyze survey data from St. Olaf College students. Topic options include health (physical health, mental health, substance use, etc.), values (social/political values and their impact on students’ lives), and the transition to adulthood (under current economic/social conditions).

Faculty: Ryan Sheppard, Sociology