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Finster, Ph.D.

Principal Associate

Dr. Matthew Finster is a principal researcher with 15 years of experience working in education and educational policy research. His expertise lies in providing technical assistance on educational research and program implementation, which often focuses on improving educator effectiveness and student outcomes. He has significant experience working with federal education grantees, state education agencies, local education agencies, and schools on building their capacity to implement their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans. He is also the author of numerous articles and technical reports centered around education and human capital management that have appeared in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Journal of Education Human Resources, and other notable publications.

Dr. Finster works as a researcher on the Institute of Education Science’s evaluation of the Regional Education Laboratories (RELs). He also serves as the project director for Abt’s subcontract to the Education Development Center (EDC) on REL Northeast and Islands. Importantly, Dr. Finster supports work across Abt’s education portfolio focused on the educator workforce, quality, and effectiveness. Further, he works across the education portfolio to support projects focused on the implementation of ESSA for states and districts.

Before coming to Abt, he held several positions at Westat, including principal researcher. His responsibilities included leading large or multiple small projects in quantitative research or technical assistance, and advising project teams on using advanced methods of data collection, statistical analysis, or evaluation. For the U.S. Department of Education Comprehensive Center Program, he provided high-quality intensive capacity-building services to state clients and recipients to identify, implement, and sustain effective evidence-based programs that support improved educator and student outcomes. Before Westat, he had been a research assistant at the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy at the University of Washington and an education specialist and resource specialist for two California school districts.


  • Educational leadership and policy studies
  • Educator effectiveness program research and evaluation
  • Technical assistance, capacity building, and implementation 
  • Quantitative methods in research, monitoring, and evaluation
  • Cost-effectiveness analysis in education

Key Projects:

  • Evaluation of the Regional Educational Laboratories
  • REL Northeast & Islands
  • Provided capacity building for the Comprehensive Center Program for U.S. Department of Education
  • Directed an Exploratory Cost-Benefit Analysis of the 4-H Program for 4-H
  • Directed the Ohio Teacher Leadership Framework Implementation for Ohio Department of Education


  • Finster, M., Decker-Woodrow, L., Booker, B., Mason, C., Tu,, S., and Lee, J. (2023). Cost-effectiveness of algebraic technological applications. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.
  • Finster, M., and Fermanich, M. (2023). Building Sustainable Funding for Teacher Residency Programs. Journal of Education Human Resources.
  • Finster, M., and Lamitie, A. (2023). 5 Strategies to Empower Teachers to Be Leaders. Education Week.
  • Finster, M., and Milanowski, A. (2021). Assessing teachers’ perceptions of alignment of human capital management of teacher leadership initiatives. Journal of Education Human Resources.
  • Finster, M., and Milanowski, A. (2018). Teacher perceptions of a new performance evaluation system and their influence on practice: A within- and between-level analysis. Education Policy Analysis Archives
Matthew Finster