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Dr. Soo-yong Byun

Dr. Soo-yong Byun
Phone: 8148631626
Office Address:
302F Rackley Building
University Park, PA 16802
Campus: University Park


Associate Professor of Education (Educational Theory & Policy)


Education Policy Studies


Center on Rural Education and Communities (CREC)
Educational Risk Initiative (ERI)
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis (CEEPA)


Educational Theory and Policy
Comparative and International Education


Dr. Byun is an associate professor (with tenure) of Educational Theory and Policy program in the Department of Education Policy Studies (EPS) in the College of Education with a joint appointment with the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) as a co-funded faculty at the Pennsylvania State University. He also serves as a faculty member of Penn State's Comparative and International Education Program and Demography Program. In addition, he has other Penn State affiliations as follows. 

Prior to joining the EPS faculty in 2012, he worked as a postdoctoral scholar at the National Research Center on Rural Education Support housed within the Center for Developmental Science in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008-2011), and as a research associate and survey/psychometric specialist for the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)'s Teacher Education Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M) in the College of Education at Michigan State University (2007-2008). He received my Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration (Comparative and International Development Education track) from the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities in 2007. He was named as one of 17 rising alumni by the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development in 2017.  He was the president of the Korean American Educational Researchers Association (KAERA)  for 2017-18.  He served as a visiting scholar at Seoul National University for 2018-19 .

His scholarly interests include sociology of education, international comparative education, rural education, and educational policy analysis and program evaluation. The articles of his have been published in leading peer-reviewed journals, including American Educational Research Journal, Comparative Education Review, and Sociology of Education. He has served on multiple editorial and advisory boards, including American Educational Research Journal, American Journal of Education, and Sociology of Education. He is currently serving as an associate editor for American Educational Research Journal. 

Areas of Expertise

Age Levels


Education Levels

Early Childhood
Middle School/Junior High
Secondary/High School

Education Types

Immigrant Ed
Minority Ed
Private Ed
Public Ed
Rural Ed

Educational Studies

Comparative Ed
Educational Theory
International Ed

Higher Education

Higher Education


Education Access
Equity and Diversity

Methodological Research

Policy Analysis
Quantitative Research

Social Issues

Charter Schools
Comparative and International Education
Education Policy
Race and Ethnicity
Social Issues

Courses Taught

EDTHP / CI ED 401, Introduction to Comparative Education 

EDTHP / SOC 416, Sociology of Education 

CIED 500, Comparative Education Proseminar I

EDTHP / CI ED 524, Comparative Education Research Using Large-Scale Data

EDTHP 565, Causal Inference in Educational Policy Research

Education History

Ph.D., Educational Policy and Administration (Concentration in Comparative and International Development Education), University of Minnesota at Twin Cites, Aug. 2007

Representative Publications

Park, J., & Byun, S. (2021). Principal support, professional learning community, and group-level teacher expectations. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 32(1), 1-23. doi:10.1080/09243453.2020.1764061

Byun, S., Bai, Y, & Chung H. (2020). Consequences of educational assortative marriage for children’s academic achievement in South Korea. In H. Park & H. Woo (Eds.), Korean families yesterday and today (pp.95-118). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.

Kwon, K., Park, J., & Byun, S. (2020). Gender, nonformal learning, and earnings in South Korea. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 50(2), 202-215. doi:10.1080/03057925.2019.1596017 (equal contributions)

Lam, B., Byun, S., & Lee, M. (2019). Understanding educational inequality in Hong Kong from the perspective of secondary school segregation in changing institutional contexts. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 40(8), 1170-1187. doi:10.1080/01425692.2019.1642736

Lee, B., & Byun, S. (2019). Socioeconomic status, vocational aspirations, school tracks, and occupational attainment in South Korea. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 48(8), 1949-1505. doi:10.1007/s10964-019-01056-5

Byun, S., Chung, H., & Baker, D. (2018). Global patterns of the use of shadow education: Student, family, and national influences. Research in the Sociology of Education, 20, 71-105. doi:10.1108/S1479-353920180000020004.

Byun, S., Meece, J. L., & Agger, C. (2017). Predictors of college attendance patterns of rural youth. Research in Higher Education58(8), 817-842. doi:10.1007/s11162-017-9449-z

Bodovski, K., Byun, S., Chykina, V., & Chung, H. (2017). Searching for the golden model of education: Cross-national analysis of math achievement. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education47(5), 722-741. doi:10.1080/03057925.2016.1274881

Bodovski, K., Jeon, H., & Byun, S. (2017). Cultural capital and educational outcomes in post-socialist Eastern Europe. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 38(6), 887-907. doi:10.1080/01425692.2016.1202746

Irvin, M. J., Byun, S., Smiley, W. S., & Hutchins, B. C. (2017). Inequality in advanced math course taking for youth in rural schools. American Journal of Education123(3), 475-510.  doi: 10.1086/691231

Byun, S., & Park, H. (2017). When everyone goes to college: Effectively maintained inequality of educational opportunity in South Korea. American Behavioral Scientist61(1), 94-113. (equal contribution). 

Byun, S. & Pong, S. (2016). Children’s highbrow cultural activities and academic achievement in Hong Kong. Research in the Sociology of Education19, 123-148. 

Byun, S., Irvin, M. J., & Bell, B. A. (2015). Advanced math course taking: Effects on math achievement and college enrollment. Journal of Experimental Education83(4), 439-468

Park, H., & Byun, S. (2015). Why some countries attract high-ability young students to teaching: Cross-national comparisons of students' expectation to become a teacher. Comparative Education Review, 59(3), 523-549.

Byun, S., Irvin, M. J., & Meece, J. L. (2015). Rural-nonrural differences in college attendance patterns. Peabody Journal of Education90(2), 263-279(invited submission).

Byun, S. (2014). Shadow education and academic success in Republic of Korea. In H. Park & K. Kim (Eds.), Korean education in changing economic and demographic contexts (pp. 39-58). Singapore: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-981-4451-27-7_3

Byun, S., Henck, A., & Post, D. (2014). Cross-national variations in student employment and academic performance: The roles of national context and international law. Comparative Education Review, 85(4), 621-652

Byun, S., Schofer, E., & Kim, K. (2012). Revisiting the role of cultural capital in East Asian educational systems: The case of South Korea. Sociology of Education85(3):219-239.

Byun, S., & Park, H. (2012). The academic success of East Asian American youth: The role of shadow education. Sociology of Education85(1), 40-60. (equal contribution)

Byun, S., Kim, K., &, Park, H. (2012). School choice and educational inequality in South Korea. Journal of School Choice6(2):158-183

Byun, S., Meece, J. L., Irvin, M. J., & Hutchins, B. C. (2012). The role of social capital in educational aspirations of rural youth. Rural Sociology77(3), 355-379

Byun, S., Meece, J. L., & Irvin, M. J. (2012). Rural-nonrural disparities in postsecondary educational attainment revisited. American Educational Research Journal49(3), 412-437.

Byun, S., Irvin, M. J., & Meece, J. L. (2012). Predictors of bachelor's degree completion among rural youth at four-year institutions. Review of Higher Education35(3), 463-484.

Irvin, M. J., Byun, S., Meece, J. L., Farmer, T. W., & Hutchins, B. C. (2012). Educational barriers of rural youth: Relation of individual and contextual difference variables. Journal of Career Assessment20(1), 71-87.

Park, H., Byun, S., & Kim, K. (2011). Parental involvement and students’ cognitive outcomes in Korea: Focusing on private tutoring. Sociology of Education84(1), 3-22.

Byun, S., & Kim, K. (2010). Educational inequality in South Korea: The widening socioeconomic gap in student achievement. Research in the Sociology of Education17, 155-182.

Byun, S. (2010). Does policy matter in shadow education spending? Revisiting the effects of the High School Equalization Policy in South Korea. Asia Pacific Education Review11(1), 83-96.


External Funding

  • A model of school’s social environmental factors in the U. S. and South Korea: Examining influence of principal support, professional learning communities, collective responsibility, and teacher expectations on nine grade students’ academic achievement at the school levelCo-Investigator, National Research Foundation of Korea (200,000,000 KRW; approximately $180,000), 08/01/2017-07/31/2020. PI: J. Park.
  • Building a Big Data Analytics Workforce in iSchools, Co-Investigator, National Science Foundation ($537,619), 09/01/2015-08/31/2018. PI: J. Ryoo. 
  • Education and Social Mobility in South Korea, Co-Investigator, Academy of Korean Studies (150,000,000 KRW; approximately $130,000), 12/01/2015-11/30/2017. PI: S. Lee. 
  • Educational Institutions and Inequality in Math and Science Achievement in Comparative International Perspective, Co-Investigator, National Science Foundation ($130,670), 07/01/2014-06/30/2015. PI: K. Bodovski. 
  • Training Interdisciplinary Educational Scientists (TIES) Program, Co-Investigator, U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences ($1,099,048), 08/01/2013-07/31/2015. PI: K. Bierman.  
  • Networks of Teachers Affect Children in Transition, Principal Investigator, William T. Grant Foundation ($220,868; Subcontract to Penn State: $66,182), 08/01/2012-07/31/2015. PI: J. Hamm.
  • Supporting Early Adolescent Learning and Social Success - Project SEALS, Co-Investigator, U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences ($397,981), 09/01/2011-08/31/2015. PI: T. Farmer.
  • The Role of Curricular and Extracurricular Experiences in the Educational Attainment of Rural Youth, Co-Investigator, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Small Grant Program (R03) ($74,000), 09/01/2010-08/31/2011. PI: M. Irvin. 
  • Rural High School Students’ Aspirations, Postdoctoral Fellow, U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences ($3,200,000), 2007-2011. PI: J. Meece.
Internal Funding

  • Educational Systems Characteristics and Socio-Economic and Gender Disparities in Math and Science Achievement, Co-Investigator, Penn State College of Education Research Initiation Grant ($26,806), 01/01/2016-12/31/2016. PI: K. Bodovski. 
  • Educational Systems Characteristics and Socio-Economic and Gender Disparities in Math and Science Achievement, Co-Investigator, Penn State Social Science Research Institute ($20,000), 09/01/2015-08/31/2016. PI: K. Bodovski. 
  • Literacy Through Photography: Examining a Multimodal Approach to Literacy Enhancement and School Attachment within a Disadvantaged Rural Setting, Co-Investigator, Penn State Social Science Research Institute ($20,000), 09/01/2013-08/31/2014. PI: K. Powell. 
  • Literacy Through Photography: Examining a Multimodal Approach to Literacy Enhancement and School Attachment within a Disadvantaged Rural Setting, Co-Investigator, Penn State College of Education Research Initiation Grant  ($9,000), 09/01/2013-08/31/2014. PI: K. Powell.
  • College Success for Rural Youth, Principal Investigator, Penn State Population Research Institute ($6,872), 12/01/2012-06/30/2013.