2013 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellows
Laura Bofferding, Purdue University
Laura Bofferding is an assistant professor at Purdue University in the department of curriculum and instruction and specializes in elementary mathematics education. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education (Mathematics Education) from Stanford University in 2011. Her primary research area is on elementary-school students’ learning of integer concepts and integer learning trajectories. Her dissertation work leveraged a mixed methods design to investigate elementary students’ mental models of negative number concepts and evaluate instruction that can support students’ transition from reasoning about whole number to integer concepts. Most recently, Dr. Bofferding received a grant from the Purdue Research Foundation to examine the processes and knowledge involved in pre-service teachers’ solutions to integer problems. In addition to her research, Dr. Bofferding has also served as a mathematics consultant for ACE consulting through the University of Notre Dame to provide schools with feedback on ways to improve their mathematics teaching.
Investigating the Conceptual Basis for the Early Introduction of Negative Numbers
In an effort to improve STEM teaching and learning, there has been a renewed focus on what mathematics is taught in school, how it is taught, and when. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards has contributed to one of STEM advocates’ main goals: reducing the number of concepts taught at each grade with the goal of focusing on them in more depth (Board on Science Education and Board on Testing and Assessment, 2011). The same group also pushes for content that is “logically sequenced over time to develop more comprehensive understanding” (p. 2).
Based on the belief that they are too abstract for young children to learn, negative numbers are usually not taught until middle school. Because children mostly learn whole numbers during elementary school, many learn that they cannot subtract a larger number from a smaller one (Ball & Wilson, 1990). This belief frequently results in the smaller-from-larger bug where students incorrectly reverse the numbers, solving 4-9 as 9-4 (Murray, 1985; VanLehn, 1982) or solving two-digit subtraction problems by subtracting the smaller number from the larger number instead of regrouping (e.g., solving 62-48=26 instead of 14; Fuson, 2003). These conceptions later contribute to students’ difficulties with solving problems with negative numbers (Murray, 1985).
My proposed research project extends the work of Siegler and Ramani (2009) to the domain of integers; over two years, I will investigate first-graders’ (year 1) and kindergartners’ (year 2) developing understanding of negative numbers as they play a linear board game (modified from Siegler & Ramani). Results will add to and clarify aspects of Case’s (1996) central conceptual structures theory regarding the development of numerical concepts. Contrasted with control groups, results of the game playing group will highlight if children can learn negative number concepts while learning positive number concepts or only after developing positive number knowledge. Further, children’s ability to solve problems such as 3-9 will clarify whether early introduction of negatives could help lessen the prevalence of subtraction errors (e.g., solving 3-9 as 9-3).
Specifically, this research project addresses the following three goals:
Evaluate the extent to which playing linear board games can contribute to the development of a mental number line for integers.
Determine if students must have formed their mental number line for positive numbers before they can make sense of negative integer order and values or whether they can learn these concepts as they are developing an understanding of the correspondence between positive number order and values.
Explore the extent to which young children can use their mental integer number line to solve simple integer addition and subtraction problems.
Sun-Joo Cho, Vanderbilt University
Sun-Joo Cho is an Assistant Professor at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University (2009-present). She teaches courses on item response theory and psychometric theory at Vanderbilt University. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Georgia’s School of Education, with an emphasis on educational measurement. She was a post-doctoral scholar for 2 years at University of California, Berkeley and worked on assessment design, psychometric models, and estimation methods. Her quantitative program of research involves modeling of individual differences within complex data structures using generalized latent variable models. Specifically, she concentrates on the development and application of item response theory (IRT) models and their estimation methods. She has dealt with data complexity stemming from (1) multiple manifest person categories such as a control group versus an experimental group in an experimental design, (2) multiple latent person categories (or mixtures or latent classes) such as a mastery group versus a non-mastery group in a cognitive test, (3) multiple manifest item groups that may lead to multidimensionality such as number operation, measurement, and representation item groups in a math test, (4) multiple manifest person groups such as schools where students are nested in a multilevel (or hierarchical) data structure, and (5) multiple time points such as pretest and posttest in intervention studies.
Evaluating Educational Programs with a New Item Response Theory Perspective
There has been an increasing number of educational interventions in an effort to generate scientific evidence of program effectiveness on which to base education policy and practice. Because educational interventions often take place in school settings, it is common for the level of assignment to treatment to be at the level of the classroom or school, although it sometimes occurs at the student level as well. It is also common that student binary outcome variables are used to assess differences between multiple groups. The purpose of analyzing intervention data is to compare scores between an experimental group(s) and a control group(s). A widespread analysis method that is used to detect group differences on outcomes is hierarchical linear models (HLMs) based on total scores. However, the HLM approach with the total scores neglects crucial aspects of measurement properties because the measurement model is conducted prior to and separately from the model used to detect the intervention effect. This study will show how intervention data having hierarchical data structure and multiple domains can be analyzed with newly developed item response theory (IRT) models to simultaneously take measurement errors of scores into account and to investigate item characteristics. In particular, this project will focus on (1) developing IRT models to overcome the limitations of conventional HLMs based on the total scores and (2) evaluating group differences by comparing alternative models, HLM and IRT. Results from this study would provide evidence of the measurement properties achieved with IRT, especially in detecting group differences on constructs. In addition, results from a simulation study will provide researchers with guidelines on which method should be used in a variety of circumstances.
Morgaen Donaldson, University of Connecticut
Morgaen L. Donaldson is an assistant professor of educational leadership at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, a research affiliate at the University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, and a research associate at the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at Harvard University. Morgaen’s teaching and research focus on educator quality, educator evaluation, school and district human capital development, and teachers unions. Her current research, much of it collaborative, examines: New Haven Public Schools’ efforts to develop human capital; the implementation of Connecticut’s new educator evaluation system; the effects of school organization and leadership on science achievement; and the trade-offs associated with different teacher evaluation instruments. Morgaen’s publications have appeared in American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Administration Quarterly, Teachers College Record, Educational Leadership, and other scholarly and practitioner journals. Her research has been funded by the National Academy of Education/MET Early Career Grant program, the Spencer Foundation, American Association of University Women, the Connecticut legislature, University of Connecticut, and Harvard University. A former public school teacher, Morgaen was a founding faculty member of the Boston Arts Academy, Boston’s public high school for the arts. Morgaen holds an Ed.D. and Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education and an A.B. from Princeton University.
Evaluating Teachers Based on Their Students’ Performance: How Do Teachers Respond?
In recent years, policymakers have seized on teacher evaluation as a primary lever for improving schools. Spurred by Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waiver requirements, over 40 states have changed their laws to incorporate student achievement in teachers’ evaluations. Despite these changes, little published research examines how tying teacher evaluation to student performance influences teachers’ attitudes, behaviors, and effectiveness. Using data from New Haven, Connecticut, I will use my fellowship to conduct one of the first studies to examine how evaluating teachers based on their students’ performance influences teachers’ motivation and student achievement.
New Haven Public Schools’ (NHPS) teacher evaluation system, TEVAL, has been cited as a model by diverse commentators, including President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. In the study, I will use qualitative and quantitative methods to ask:
According to teachers and administrators, how have NHPS teachers responded to TEVAL?
Has it influenced their reported motivation? If so, how?
Has it influenced their reported decisions regarding what courses, students, and content to teach? If so, how?
Has student achievement in NHPS improved since the implementation of TEVAL?
Prior research and motivation theory suggest varied ways that teachers could respond to TEVAL. Interviews with approximately 100 teachers and 25 school leaders and surveys of the population of these educators within NHPS will allow me to understand how, according to a sample of educators, teachers have responded to TEVAL’s mix of rewards, sanctions, and capacity-building (Research Question 1). Interviews will be conducted in a purposive sample of 10 NHPS schools, three of which are high schools. In each school, I will interview the principal, assistant principal(s), and approximately 25% of the teachers. Following the completion of the interviews, I will administer surveys to the population of teachers and school leaders in NHPS. The surveys will test the generalizability of interview participants’ views and investigate the components of motivation theory and possible perverse consequences of TEVAL.
Examining student achievement before and after the adoption of TEVAL will suggest whether this policy has influenced teachers’ behaviors (Research Question 2). To explore this question, I will (1) compare trends in student achievement in NHPS against statewide trends and trends in comparable urban districts using a difference-in-differences design; and (2) examine achievement trends within teachers who were present in NHPS pre- and post-TEVAL implementation using teacher fixed effects.
Although this study has limitations, it is one of the first of its kind on an important topic, and thus makes a critical contribution to the field. Given that heightened accountability may have a chilling effect on teacher motivation or produce perverse incentives, it is important to begin to develop an understanding of how such a policy influences teacher motivation, behavior, and student achievement. This study’s contribution to the field is further enhanced by its research site. An early implementer of teacher evaluation incorporating student performance measures, New Haven Public Schools provides an opportunity to test key assumptions. As an increasing number of states and districts implement teacher evaluation based on student performance, this study will provide early findings about how the people at the center of this reform—teachers—are responding to it. As such, this study may be a helpful resource for leaders across various levels of the educational system.
Scott Gelbern, Wheaton College (Massachusetts)
Scott Gelber is an assistant professor of education and assistant professor of history (by courtesy) at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. His first book, The University and the People: Envisioning American Higher Education in an Era of Populist Revolt (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), examines the surprising extent of Populist support for academic freedom, the liberal arts, and state appropriations during the late nineteenth century. Ultimately, The University and the People argues that the core principles of public higher education evolved out of a taut relationship between grassroots activism and professorial expertise. The book was supported by fellowships from the Spencer Foundation and the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. In 2012, it won the Linda Eisenmann Prize of the History of Education Society. His current book project explores the legal history of college access. A former New York City public school teacher, Professor Gelber coordinates Wheaton’s secondary education program and offers courses in secondary school instructional methods as well as the history, politics, and philosophy of education. He has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Harvard University.
Courtrooms and Classrooms: The Legal History of College Access, 1860-1960
This project challenges conventional assumptions about the legal history of “academic deference” by demonstrating that judicial oversight of college access was not only more common than previously indicated but also inextricably linked to subsequent expansions of student rights. Although American judges almost always ruled in favor of colleges in suits related to property, employment, and personal injury, courts frequently limited institutional authority when adjudicating admissions, tuition, and expulsion cases. Courts routinely entertained these challenges to academic autonomy during the nineteenth century, and only deferred consistently to college administrators during a brief period after colleges gained full-fledged status as “higher” institutions and before the legal campaigns of the civil rights movement. The first comprehensive study of the formative era of college access law, this project examines the competing rationales for higher education (the welfare of the public, the opportunity of the student, the expertise of the professor) that fueled or constrained academic deference. Secondarily, this project reveals how external phenomenon, especially institutional status and political movements, influenced the shifting jurisprudence of higher education. Finally, and more tentatively, the project explores the impact of litigation on actual college access policies. This book-length research project indicates that twenty-first century debates over college access law rest upon a history of contention rather than upon doctrinal bedrock. This finding contributes to a larger scholarly conversation about the extent to which American higher education operates (or should operate) independent of the courts and other political institutions. In particular, this project seeks to enrich recent commentary regarding the “privatization” of American higher education by demonstrating that the legal privileges granted to colleges were traditionally contingent on their perceived service to the public interest.
Cynthia Groff, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Iztapalapa, Mexico City
Cynthia Groff completed her Ph.D. in Educational Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. Her dissertation, titled “Language, Education, and Empowerment: Voices of Kumauni Young Women in Multilingual India,” is based on ethnographic field work conducted in North India. Since graduating in 2010, she has conducted post-doctoral research through Université Laval in Québec and through Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico. Her research interests include adequacy of education for linguistic minorities and the experiences and discourses of minority youth.
Development of Second-Language Proficiencies in Mother-Tongue-Based Bilingual Education: Assessment and Adaptation in the Mexican Indigenous-Language Contexts
Developing skills in multiple languages has become increasingly important in our multilingual world. Multilingual skills are particularly vital for linguistic minorities whose access to economic opportunities depends on mastery of the dominant language of their society. Besides communication skills, students need to build up literacy and analytical skills, which are most often developed in educational settings and most easily developed, it has been argued, in a learner’s first language. Others argue that it makes little difference in which language literacy skills are introduced. Meanwhile, societal factors often push for immediate mastery of academic skills in the dominant language of society. The education of linguistic minorities is at stake, hanging on the value of mother-tongue versus second-language instruction.
What is the relationship between first and second language development, particularly the development of cognitive, academic language skills in a first and second language? My project addresses this question through analysis of reading and writing assessments in P’urhepecha and Spanish from bilingual primary schools in the Mexican indigenous-education context. An ethnographic component to my research addresses school policy and classroom practice relevant to this biliteracy development, with a particular focus on the perceptions and intentions of educators in planning and evaluating the development of second language skills. This provides context for my first question and supports a second question relevant to teacher engagement in the evaluation process: How are the development of second language skills planned, implemented and evaluated in the P’urhepecha bilingual education context?
Two experimental bilingual schools in the Mexican state of Michoacán provide an exceptional location for this study. In a community where children come to school monolingual in the P’urhepecha language, a group of dedicated teachers have worked together with external experts to design a bilingual education program that provides mother tongue instruction throughout the primary school years (1-6), with gradual introduction of Spanish as a second language. Preliminary evaluation of students’ language development at these schools have shown promising evidence of the transfer of cognitive, academic language skills from the first to the second language. This project provides a fuller exploration of this connection, aiming to shed light on second-language development processes, with theoretical and pedagogical implications. The project also addresses the engagement of educators with the evaluation process being used to assess academic skills in the first and second language. Significant for this research are educators’ responses to this evaluation process and to the results of assessments – their interpretation of findings and the implications they draw for classroom practice.
The broad aim of this research is to document cognitive, academic linguistic growth and the development of biliteracy among primary school students in a bilingual education program. The unique research context allows for analysis of the development of Spanish reading and writing skills as an outcome of a second-language program that relies on the initial development of first-language skills. Little research evidence exists in Latin America on the success of Spanish in a bilingual program based on first-language literacy. Besides theoretical implications, results will be of strategic relevance to developing a more appropriate curriculum and assessment system for bilingual education in Mexico and in other bilingual context.
Uma Jayakumar, University of San Francisco
Uma M. Jayakumar is a fourth year Assistant Professor of Organization and Leadership at the University of San Francisco’s School of Education and Co-Director of the Higher Education and Student Affairs Master’s program. She earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change at UCLA. Before coming to USF she was a Faculty Associate at the University of Michigan with the Education and Well Being program in the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research (ISR). Jayakumar’s scholarship examines race, equity, and diversity issues in higher education, with a focus on how institutional environments such as campus climates and cultures, and organizational practices shape access, experiences, race-relations, and educational outcomes among college students. These topics are reflected in the courses she teaches, which include “ Race, Diversity, and Higher Education” and “Campus Environments and Cultures.” Jayakumar’s research is featured in the Harvard Educational Review, the Journal of Higher Education, Diverse Magazine, reports to foundations and educational institutes, and her co-edited book entitled: “Creating Campus Cultures: Fostering Success among Diverse Student Populations.” Dr. Jayakumar is recipient of the 2007 Bobby Wright Dissertation of the Year Award by the Association for the Study of Higher Education and was named Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the National Center for Institutional Diversity in 2010. Last year, Jayakumar was one of 21 social science researchers who co-developed an amicus brief summarizing key research findings related to the use of race-conscious admissions practices. The brief, submitted to The Supreme Court by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, supports the need for affirmative action in Higher Education Institutions. In addition to the Social Scientists brief, her work informs numerous amici, including those submitted to the Court by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), National Women’s Law Center, 17 United States Senators, Harvard Graduate School of Education Students for Diversity, and Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.
Leveraging Dicersity: Is “Critical Mass” of Same-Race Peers Necessary for Fostering Educational Benefits?
The recent Supreme Court case of Fisher v University of Texas made clear the need for a more nuanced understanding of the effects of diversity on four-year college and university campuses. There is a lack of clarity with respect to same-race representation and whether the presence of a “critical mass” of students from a given racial or ethnic group may or may not affect integration and educational outcomes for students both within the group and at large. Drawing from two national, longitudinal datasets I will explore these issues across various racial groups. I will also examine the extent to which same-race representation on campus promotes a positive racial climate for students who grew up in both diverse and segregated neighborhoods. The research builds on existing studies to contribute to our empirical and policy understanding of how student body composition can impact learning environments in an increasingly diverse and global society.
Ibram X. Kendi (formerly Ibram Rogers), University at Albany – SUNY
Ibram X. Kendi is an assistant professor of Africana Studies at the University at Albany – SUNY, and a visiting scholar in Africana Studies at Brown University. He is the author of the award-winning book, The Black Campus Movement: Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965-1972. He has published twelve essays on the Black Campus Movement, black power, and intellectual history in books and academic journals, including the Journal of Social History, Journal of African American Studies, Journal of African American History, and The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture. He has earned research fellowships from the American Historical Association, Chicago’s Black Metropolis Research Consortium, Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, and the Lyndon B. Johnson Library & Museum.
Black Students and Black Studies: A Founding History, 1966-1970
Black Students and Black Studies, the first national historical study of the institutionalization of Black Studies in the late 1960s, will not be another narrative of student protests in the 1960s. Without question, protests were vital to the institutionalization of Black Studies. Without protests, Black Studies may not exist today. However, in the 1960s and in our national historical memory, the rapid melodramatic, loud, public, and headlines-snatching black student protests overshadowed the laborious, quiet, private, and headlines-alluding proposal writing and negotiations between students, faculty, and administrators. Protests were a dramatic end or interlude on most campuses. They were usually one-day ordeals in multi-year campaigns for Black Studies.
Protests will be mentioned. Yet, the bulk of Black Students and Black Studies will narrate the bulk of the story—student proposal writing, presentations, debates, negotiations, and compromises. Significantly, the book will showcase the student as educational producer, as opposed to educational consumer, contributing to that growing body of educational research. Centrally, the book will argue that students did not merely protest for the new discipline, as is commonly submitted. They provided the earliest intellectual rationale and engaged in a serious intellectual offensive for the discipline. The vast majority of the Black Studies proposals, utilized as ideological and curricula blueprints to develop programs and departments, were written by students. They often presented these proposals to faculty and administrators and were compelled to defend and negotiate for the institutionalization of their ideas. Administrators and faculty often resisted these student ideas, rejecting student facility to invent curricula, and for ideological, political, pedagogical, and financial reasons. These students were unwavering in their convictions. Black Students and Black Studies will document this intellectual push among students, the pushback from faculty and administrators, and the compromises that gave birth to Black Studies.
Francesca Lopez, University of Arizona
Francesca López began her career in education as a bilingual (Spanish/English) elementary teacher, and later as an at-risk high school counselor, in El Paso, Texas. After completing her PhD in Educational Psychology at the University of Arizona (2008), she served on the faculty of the Educational Policy and Leadership department at Marquette University (2008-2013) and is currently an associate professor in the Educational Psychology department at the University of Arizona. Her research is focused on the ways educational settings promote achievement for Latino youth and has been funded by the American Educational Research Association Grants Program and the Division 15 of the American Psychological Association Early Career Award. She has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment and is currently an associate editor for Reading and Writing Quarterly.
Addressing the Need for Explicit Evidence on the Role of Culturally Responsive Teaching and Achievement Among Latino Youth
Despite numerous educational reform efforts aimed at aggressively addressing achievement disparities, Latinos continue to be among the most at risk for school failure. Researchers citing evidence that achievement disparities among Latino youth who are English Learners (ELs) are most pronounced often focus on ways to remove language as a barrier to achievement. Nevertheless, there is seemingly contradictory evidence that Latino youth who are members of the first or second generation have higher achievement outcomes than their English-proficient counterparts who are members of the third generation and beyond.
In sharp contrast to the belief that the inordinate achievement disparities among Latino students stem from deficiencies, some researchers assert that culturally responsive teaching (CRT) improves academic achievement because it views students’ culture and language as strengths. The research examining the role of CRT in promoting achievement, however, is faulted as lacking an explicit link to achievement, which prevents its consideration among policymakers.
The teacher expectancy literature has already established that teacher expectations are related to students’ perceptions of ability and their subsequent performance. Therefore, it is likely that explicit evidence supporting the role of CRT in promoting achievement can be established given that one of the domains in CRT is high academic expectations. Unknown is how other CRT domains—particularly those explicitly concerned with culture—contribute to students’ achievement. We know students confronted with discrimination have lower levels of both ethnic identity and perceptions of academic ability, but do students incorporate CRT’s positive views of their culture in terms of ethnic identity, exclusively? Or does CRT also inform students’ achievement identity? If ethnic identity and achievement identity both mediate CRT’s effect on achievement, are the effects moderated by generational status? The specific research questions I will examine are: (1) Is CRT directly related to students’ perceptions of discrimination? (2) Is CRT indirectly related to Latino students’ achievement through perceived discrimination? (3) Is CRT indirectly related to Latino students’ achievement though ethnic identity and achievement identity? (4) Does generational status moderate the process by which CRT affects various facets of student identity?
To address these questions, I propose to use the NAEd/Spencer postdoctoral fellowship to collect and analyze Latino student (EL and non-EL) and teacher measures, augmented by interviews, classroom observations, and curricular materials in 3rd through 8th grade classrooms across four schools varying degrees of CRT. Each question provides an opportunity to make a unique contribution to the literature, addressing pervasive limitations that have prevented a more forceful consideration of CRT in educational policy.
Gigi Luk, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Gigi Luk is an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education since 2011. After obtaining a Ph. D. in Cognitive Psychology from York University in Toronto, Canada, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Rotman Research Institute at the Baycrest Center in Toronto. Her research on the cognitive consequences of bilingualism extends across the lifespan. These cognitive consequences include literacy acquisition in children and executive functions in young and older adults. The main research finding is that bilingualism, as a language experience, results in some cognitive advantages and linguistic limitations at different developmental stages. For children in particular, these bilingual consequences entail cognitive and educational implications. Gigi Luk’s current research has focused on how dimensions defining bilingualism is construed in education.
Understanding Bilingual Students in Education
Bilingual students’ English proficiency, rather than their home language background, has been the primary focus in education. While proficiency in one language is relevant to their overall bilingual experience, it does not explain these bilingual students’ language profile. To investigate how students’ language background is recorded in school systems, I conducted an analysis on students’ records and whether bilingual experience is related to academic outcomes in state exams. Results suggested that there is an interaction between students’ bilingual language background and free/reduced-lunch status in the Massachusetts population. Former English Language Learners (ELL) students who were eligible for free/reduced lunch had better English Language Arts and mathematics performance, while the ELL students had consistently lower performance. The implication is that students’ language background may complement English proficiency to identify students who are in need of extra support for learning.
In the second study, I investigated the variations in language backgrounds among fourth grade students in a school district with a high concentration of multilingual students. Children were categorized based on a principal components extracted from parental reports of home language environment into monolingual (n = 25), unbalanced (reported using more English than non-English language at home, n = 34) and balanced bilingual (reported more non-English usage at home but primarily English at school, n = 35) groups. All the children were given assessments on English vocabulary, reading comprehension and executive function. The three language groups showed similar reading performances. However, differential relationships between reading outcomes, English vocabulary and executive function were observed across the three groups. While English vocabulary is associated with reading outcomes in all children, balanced bilingual children also showed a positive relationship between executive function and reading comprehension. Results suggested that home language environment moderates the relationship between English vocabulary, executive function and reading comprehension.
Finally, I examined preschoolers’ language and cognition before they enter kindergarten. Preschoolers were categorized into English-dominant and Spanish-dominant groups and were given standardized language assessments and experimental measures on executive function in English and Spanish, respectively. The two groups showed dissociated performance in tasks with differential levels of language demand. Compared to English-dominant children, Spanish-dominant children had slightly inferior performance in tasks requiring oral language processing but had comparable or better performance in tasks that demanded minimal language processing. In this study, combining home language environment information and linguistic-sensitive assessment protocol provides a comprehensive assessment on children with diverse language backgrounds.
Findings from these studies contribute to discovering what information about multilingual children’s language background should be collected and how to make use of this information to enrich the learning experience for these children. Furthermore, rather than focusing on multilingual students’ language proficiency limitations, these projects suggest that educators’ attention can also be placed on cognitive strength to harness these students’ learning potential.
Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez, University of California, Irvine
Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez received her Ed.D. in Language and Literacy from Harvard University in 2009, and is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Language, Literacy, and Technology in the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine. Focused on the language and literacy development of students whose ages span the toddlerhood years through adolescence and who are from linguistically diverse homes, she aims to conduct research that can inform classroom instruction and shape policy to close the reading achievement gap. Her longitudinal work to date underscores the need to focus on promoting linguistically diverse students’ language development, before and during formal schooling. She is currently interested in the utility of early identification for later reading difficulties and in classroom practices that promote language development in order to design research-based interventions to ensure linguistically diverse students are provided with effective supports for achievement.
Reconceptualizing the Task of Early Identification of Reading Comprehension Difficulties for Language Minority Learners: The Persistence Dimension
Many students whose first language is not English, referred to here as Language Minority (LM) learners, struggle more to comprehend English text than their native-English speaking peers. These reading achievement gaps persist even among LM learners born, raised, and educated in the U.S. Research-based interventions are needed to boost young LM learners’ opportunities to learn in order to close the achievement gap. The push for preventive efforts is not new, but understanding and remediating the role of persistent difficulties with early skills known to influence reading outcomes remains relatively unexplored.
My research reconceptualizes the task of early identification of reading comprehension difficulties. Rather than focusing on potentially transitory difficulties during any given academic year, I will explore the extent to which persistent difficulties with early reading skills, in Spanish and/or English, better explain LM learners’ reading comprehension outcomes and more accurately predict difficulties through adolescence. This study utilizes existing longitudinal data on 173 U.S.-born, English-instructed Spanish-speaking LM learners from low-income homes and aims to provide concrete instructional and policy recommendations anchored in empirically validated theoretical models of reading comprehension for LM learners. Specifically, data on word recognition and language comprehension in Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2 will be used to identify which children experience persistent difficulties across time. The predictive power of persistent vs. grade-specific problems for later reading comprehension difficulties will be assessed at both the mean and various other points (via quantile regression) of the Grades 5 and 8 reading comprehension distributions.
There is wide consensus about the importance of preventing children’s reading comprehension difficulties. However, valid and appropriate identification of students, particularly of LM learners, as “at-risk” for reading difficulties is a complex undertaking. It is essential that educators and policymakers alike focus their efforts on ensuring that students receive support that maps on to their specific instructional needs as early as possible. My research is predicated on the possibility that the persistence dimension constitutes a promising approach to identifying LM learners who can benefit from sustained, targeted instruction in the service of mitigating later reading comprehension difficulties. Results of this study have the potential to make a significant contribution to efforts aimed at ensuring that LM learners are provided with effective supports for achievement.
Ariana Mangual Figueroa, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Ariana Mangual Figueroa is an Assistant Professor of Language Education in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She draws from the fields of language socialization and linguistic anthropology to examine language use and learning in multilingual Latino communities living in the United States. Her research documents the everyday experiences of children and families as they participate in learning activities across multiple settings including homes, schools, and communities. Mangual Figueroa’s most recent ethnographic study of mixed-status families tracks how parents and children talk about citizenship in their everyday lives, exploring how learning and language use are shaped by immigration and educational policies. Her work has been published in Anthropology & Education Quarterly, the Journal of Language, Identity, & Education, and Language Policy.
Citizenship, Socialization, and Schooling in the Lives of Mixed-Status Mexican Families
This multi-sited ethnographic study will examine how U.S-born and undocumented children in mixed-status Latino families understand the significance of their citizenship status in home and school settings. The goal of the study is to illuminate how and when citizenship status is discussed, contested, and redefined, and to explore how this evolving understanding shapes children’s participation within families and schools. Mixed-status families include members who are residing in the U.S. without legal resident status, members applying for U.S. citizenship, and U.S.-born citizens. This study will focus on mixed-status families in order to shed light on a phenomenon that has remained largely invisible to educational researchers: how undocumented and U.S.-born children develop and negotiate understandings about citizenship status during everyday conversations.
The sample includes 6 mixed-status families residing in New York City in which the parents were born in Mexico, El Salvador, or the Dominican Republic. The focal children–girls ages 10-11–were born either in the U.S. or in their parents’ country of origin. The sample also includes the teacher of the 5th grade dual-language class that all 6 girls attended, along with additional staff at the focal school. I employ three main modes of data collection: ethnographic participant observation, ongoing member checks, and interviews at the home and school sites. I will utilize a grounded theory approach to data analysis; coding and data collection will be simultaneous and iterative.
This research hopes to make a significant impact in the field of education in three critical areas: first, it seeks to render visible the social and academic experiences of a growing population of children unfamiliar to many educators. Second, the study will contribute theoretical insights about the role of citizenship in the everyday lives of immigrant families and children. Finally, I will bring the findings of this research to bear on ongoing conversations about children’s participation in society and in discussions about how to conduct ethical research in vulnerable communities.
Francine Menashy, University of Massachusetts Boston
Francine Menashy is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership in Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research centers on aid to education and private sector engagement, with a focus on the policies and operations of international financial institutions. Previously she held a position as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Comparative, International and Development Education Centre at the University of Toronto. Her research has been funded by such sources as the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Open Society Foundation. She has published extensively on the topics of public-private partnerships, international education policies, and educational theory. In the past she has worked with an NGO in Laos, and as a teacher in Canada. Francine holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto/OISE.
Global Financing to Public Private Partnerships in Education: The Interconnected Policies of International Organizations
Private engagement in education is growing at an unprecedented rate worldwide, intensifying an already polarized debate on the role of non-state actors. Concurrently, international agencies are increasingly collaborating, and have independently and collectively supported this rise in private participation. Wielding considerable influence in shaping the educational agendas of developing countries, three of the largest financiers to education – the World Bank, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education – have encouraged public-private partnerships. Moreover, these three organizations are closely related, with several joint initiatives, co-board membership and policy-making collaborations. However, questions persist concerning the power of individual organizations and actors to influence collective decision-making on such issues as private provision of education. This study uses a multi-layered research design, including content analysis, portfolio review, process-tracing and network analysis to examine global support to public-private partnerships through an examination of the World Bank, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education. The study will discern the drivers behind policies relating to private provision, the degree of support that private providers receive in aid, and the relationships and interplay between organizations.
Deborah Michaels, Grinnell College
Deborah L. Michaels began her current work as an assistant professor of education at Grinnell College after earning her Ph.D. in Educational Foundations and Policy at the University of Michigan. Her scholarship and teaching span international and comparative education, the history of education, and social studies methods. Deborah resided for over a decade in Central and Eastern Europe, primarily in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where she conducts research on national identity politics in schooling and the exclusion of Roma. Her most recent publications investigate how schools in post-socialist Europe teach about the Holocaust, considering the impacts of European Union accession, a legacy of Communist historiography, and proximity to the atrocities of the war. Deborah has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, and a US State Department Speaker Grant to Budapest, Hungary for her lectures on school inclusion for racial and ethnic minorities.
Revising the Nation: Citizenship and Belonging in Slovak Schooling, 1910-2010
How do school narratives in history and civics textbooks negotiate the competing demands of promoting a sense of national continuity and social stability, on the one hand, and of legitimating often drastic overhauls in state structure and ideology, on the other? Slovakia provides a rich case for exploring this question because of its numerous and diverse political transitions: from imperial rule under the Habsburgs, to bourgeois democracy (1918-1938), nationalist totalitarianism (1939-1945), state socialism (1948-1989), and, most recently, to parliamentary democracy (1989-present). In 2004, Slovakia was among the first post-socialist states to join the European Union (E.U.), which led to additional pressure to align national belonging with the often ill-defined supranational identity of this pan-continental community. In other words, this turbulent history allows not only for the investigation of how different state regimes have influenced identity narratives through schooling, but also how supranational entities such as the Habsburg Empire and the E.U. have used school narration to legitimize their existence. Through an analysis of over 400 state-approved textbooks for history and civics classes published in Slovakia between 1910-2010, this research offers a rare longitudinal, school-based perspective on national identity politics. This work will elucidate why and how state schooling perpetuates exclusive nationalisms even across democratization efforts. Such lessons are highly pertinent today as international organizations continue to focus on schooling as a means of democratization and post-conflict reform, as evidenced by the cases of South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, to name but a few examples. In addition, all regions of Europe have experienced a rise in xenophobia and ethnic violence in the past five years, and the European Union continues to seek educational solutions to increase ethnic and religious tolerance.
Django Paris, Michigan State University
Django Paris is an associate professor of language and literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. He is also a core faculty member in the African American and African Studies Program and affiliated faculty in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and the Native American Institute. His teaching and research focus on understanding and sustaining languages, literacies, and literatures among youth of color in changing urban schools and communities. He is particularly concerned with educational and cultural justice as outcomes of inquiry and pedagogy. Paris is author of Language across Difference: Ethnicity, Communication, and Youth Identities in Changing Urban Schools (2011), co-editor of Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities (2014), and has published in many academic journals, including the Harvard Educational Review and Educational Researcher. He is chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Standing Committee on Research. Paris is also the associate director of the Bread Loaf School of English, a summer graduate program of Middlebury College.
Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy across Communities: Studies with Teachers of African American, Latina/o, and Indigenous Youth
In this study I seek to build a contemporary empirical base for and further conceptualize what I have recently termed culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP) (Paris, 2012). To do so, I will trace the pedagogical practices of teachers who have a core commitment to sustaining the languages, literacies, and other valued cultural practices of African American, Latina/o, and Indigenous youth. To draw out the tenets of such teaching toward a theory of CSP, I will engage in a series of humanizing qualitative case studies of language and literacy pedagogy with teachers of youth of color in urban Michigan. Such a multiple case study design allows for both within case findings and across case comparison, so I can look for similarities and distinctions in culturally sustaining teaching practices with African American, Latina/o, and Indigenous students. The findings resulting from this study can extend existing knowledge for teachers and teacher educators about how to support and foster cultural pluralism with youth of color in urban classrooms.
Danielle Pillet-Shore, University of New Hampshire
Danielle Pillet-Shore (PhD, University of California-Los Angeles) is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of New Hampshire. Her research investigates practices of human interaction that are critical to sustaining everyday social life. Specializing in the methods of conversation analysis, she examines video-recorded naturally occurring interactions between people coming together to socialize and/or do work, elucidating systematic patterns of interaction through which people constitute their social and professional relationships. She is currently investigating how primary-school teachers and their students’ parents interact during parent-teacher conferences, as well as how both previously acquainted and unacquainted parties open their face-to-face encounters across a wide variety of settings.
Parent-Teacher Conference Interaction: Examining Endogenous Methods for Circumventing Conflict
As the principal occasion for establishing cooperation between family and school, the parent-teacher conference is crucial to children’s education. But there is a problem: decades of literature suggest that parents and teachers are “natural enemies” between whom “conflict must inevitably arise” – particularly during the “dreaded” parent-teacher conference. There are, however, no descriptive empirical studies that explicate how such conflict emerges and unfolds in real time during conferences, nor how such conflict is often avoided. My study contributes to and extends educational knowledge by filling this gap. Using conversation analytic methods, this research examines the interactions that take place during naturally occurring conferences to elucidate systematic patterns of parent-teacher interaction observable across a large and diverse corpus of video-recorded traditional conferences. It provides the first detailed analysis of sequences of parent-teacher interaction arguably most ripe for conflict: sequences in which at least one conference participant criticizes the focal non-present student (treating as a trouble requiring remedy some issue about that student’s academic performance, behavior and/or effort). This study shows that, during these sequences, parents and teachers recurrently collaborate to enable the parent to be first to articulate student criticism. One clear conclusion that can be drawn from the discovery of this regular pattern of parent-teacher interaction is that it constitutes an endogenous method for circumventing conflict: when the parent articulates a criticism of the student that the teacher had been planning to mention, the teacher can simply agree with and build upon what the parent has already said. And when the parent is first to articulate a student criticism, that parent thereby displays independent knowledge of an emergent student trouble – a key practice through which s/he constructs her/his identity as a ‘good parent’ vis-à-vis the teacher.
Joseph Robinson Cimpian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Cimpian’s research focuses on social, psychological, and institutional factors affecting equity and access, particularly concerning sexual minorities, women, and language minorities. With his colleagues, he has recently examined how bullying relates to psychological disparities between sexual-minority and heterosexual youth, how teachers’ expectations of girls’ and boys’ math abilities predict growth in the gender gap, and how well-intentioned education policies may hinder achievement for English Language Learners. His research also concerns the advancement of methods to study equity and policy. He has received funding for his research from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, CRESST, the AERA Grants Board, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), and the Illinois State Board of Education. His research has been published in Pediatrics, Educational Researcher, the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, among other journals and edited volumes. He is a faculty affiliate of the Forum on the Future of Public Education and the Los Angeles Education Research Institute, and he has served on the editorial boards of the American Educational Research Journal and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Dr. Cimpian teaches several courses on statistics and research design, including a course on quasi-experimental design and causal inference. He received his Ph.D. in economics of education from Stanford University in 2009 and began as an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The effects of changing test-based policies for reclassifying English Learners: A difference-in-regression-discontinuities approach
Language-minority students who enter the school system as English Learners (ELs) are expected, during their time as students, to be reclassified as Fluent English Proficient (R-FEP). Policy considerations tend to focus on increasing the speed with which ELs are reclassified. While attaining English proficiency is indeed important, it is also important to keep in mind that ELs and R-FEPs often receive different instructional bundles (e.g., services, settings, teachers, peers), and thus it is imperative to evaluate reclassification effects on academic outcomes. This paper has two goals: first, to demonstrate that reclassification policies and changes in those policies can indeed affect achievement and graduation, and are thus important to evaluate; and second, to compare methods for evaluating these policies. With respect to the first goal, we demonstrate that attaining the reclassification criteria—and, as a result, being reclassified—can have significant effects on both subsequent achievement and graduation. We provide the first examination of changes in reclassification criteria over two policy periods—and we do so with data on Latino/a students from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the U.S. district serving the largest number of ELs, thus providing a powerful and dynamic demonstration of reclassification effects. Using “difference-in-regression-discontinuities” approaches, we find consistent evidence that a policy change, which increased the difficulty in attaining the test-based criteria for EL reclassification eligibility, had significant effects on high-school students’ subsequent English language arts achievement (0.18 SDs) and graduation outcomes (11 percentage points). Specifically, when the criteria for reclassification were lower, students experienced negative effects of reclassification; but when the criteria were raised, students no longer experienced these negative effects. Students in elementary and middle school showed no significant evidence of positive or negative effects in either policy period. With respect to the second goal, regression-based and regression-discontinuity-based methods often led to incongruent conclusions about not only the effects of reclassification, but also the effects of changing reclassification criteria. Thus, this paper highlights the importance both of evaluating reclassification policies (and changes in those policies) and of the choice of evaluation methods.
Leoandra Rogers, New York University
Dr. Leoandra Onnie Rogers earned a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University with Dr. Niobe Way. Dr. Rogers’ research focuses on identity development in the context of schooling and education. Her work examines how cultural norms, expectations, and stereotypes influence how youth see themselves in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender, and the ways that youth challenge, or resist, negative cultural messages about who and what they are or can be. Her dissertation, “Young, Black and Male: Exploring the Intersections of Racial and Gender Identity in an All-Black Male High School”, focused on how young Black males negotiate racial and gender stereotypes during high school. Currently, she is a Research Associate at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at University of Washington investigating children’s understandings of social expectations and stereotypes. Dr. Rogers completed her undergraduate studies in psychology and education at UCLA.
Understanding the Path of Resistance: How Stereotypes Shape the Racial Identities and Academic Pathways of Black Youth
Nearly 60 years post the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education (1954), inequality still plagues our nation’s education system. Beyond the tangible barriers to equality, such as the distribution of resources and access to high-quality teachers and learning materials, there are intangible, social psychological considerations, such as racial stereotypes, which influence school achievement as well as youths’ identities. The research on such stereotype and identity processes focuses almost entirely on adolescents. This is surprising because the effects of social stereotypes are evidenced even earlier in childhood, and it is likely that stereotyping contributes to the achievement gap between Black and White students that emerges as early as preschool. Moreover, research generally examines how individuals conform to stereotypes; but, resistance – the psychological process whereby one challenges or contests cultural stereotypes – is a powerful and under-studied force of development. Recognizing that some children are highly successful in resisting negative racial stereotypes shifts the scientific enterprise to investigating how resistance processes might counteract the pernicious effects of cultural stereotypes.
The objective of this postdoctoral project is to understand the origins of racial identity in childhood and, in particular, the ways that youth resist conforming to negative cultural stereotypes. This objective will be achieved through research undertaken with the mentorship of Dr. Andrew N. Meltzoff (Host Mentor) and support of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, a state-of-the-art research center at the University of Washington. In-depth interviews with Black and White elementary-aged children will provide a measure of how racial stereotypes shape racial identity and how the content and prevalence of resistance to stereotypes varies across developmental stages. This research will reduce the gap in our knowledge of the development of racial identity and how stereotype processes operate prior to adolescence. It will lay the groundwork for exploring implicit factors related to educational inequality and the design of successful intervention programs.
Scott Seider, Boston University
Scott Seider is an associate professor of education at Boston University where his research focuses on the civic and character development of adolescents. He is the author of more than 50 academic publications including Character Compass: How Powerful School Culture Can Point Students Toward Success (2012), which won the American Educational Research Association’s outstanding book award in moral development and education. Dr. Seider previously worked as a literacy teacher in the Boston Public Schools and an English teacher in the Westwood (MA) Public Schools. He earned an Ed.D. in Human Development & Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an A.B. in English & American Literature from Harvard College.
The Development of Critical Consciousness in Urban Adolescents Attending Freirean and No Excuses Charter High Schools
Critical consciousness refers to the ability to critically analyze the social forces that impact one’s life as well as the development of skills and strategies necessary to navigate or challenge these forces. Recent scholarship has found critical consciousness to predict a range of positive outcomes in adolescents marginalized by systematic inequalities including academic achievement, political engagement and resilience. However, there is still much to be learned about the processes by which critical consciousness develops in marginalized adolescents, and, particularly, the role that schools can play in fostering such development. This longitudinal, mixed methods study will compare the development of critical consciousness in youth attending urban charter high schools guided by Freirean and No Excuses principles. The goals of this project are to provide insight into 1) the structure and predictors of critical consciousness development in marginalized youth and 2) whether differences emerge in such development in students attending two different schooling models. In so doing, the project seeks to offer scholars, educators and policy-makers deeper understandings of the curricular and pedagogical avenues available to them for fostering adolescents’ critical consciousness.
Kristin Turney, University of California, Irvine
Kristin Turney is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine and a faculty affiliate at the Center for Demographic and Social Analysis (C-DASA). She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 and, from 2009 to 2011, was a Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar at the University of Michigan. Broadly, her research investigates intra- and inter-generational social inequalities in wellbeing across the life course. Current projects include understanding the collateral consequences of incarceration for children and families, the effects of depression on family life, and the causes and consequences of childhood health inequalities. Her substantive interests are accompanied by a methodological interest in causal inference. This research has been funded by the American Educational Research Association, the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.
Mass Incarceration and the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality: Examining the Effect of Paternal Incarceration on Children’s Educational Outcomes
The dramatic rise in mass incarceration in the United States, which began in the mid-1970s and has continued mostly unabated, means that incarceration is a common event for an increasing number of individuals and families. In response to this rapid growth in incarceration, an escalating literature suggests the incarceration of a father is linked to an array of negative outcomes for children, including educational disadvantages, problem behaviors, substance use, homelessness, and delinquency. Despite this growing literature, there are several opportunities to extend our knowledge about the relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s educational outcomes in early and middle childhood. This research project addresses the following four questions: (1) How does paternal incarceration contribute to the well-established race/ethnic and social class inequalities in children’s educational outcomes (measured as cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills, and grade retention)?; (2) What are the time-varying effects of paternal incarceration on children’s educational outcomes?; (3) How does the effect of paternal incarceration on children’s educational outcomes vary by propensity for incarceration?; and (4) What are the pathways through which paternal incarceration leads to deleterious educational outcomes? I will answer these questions with longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a data source uniquely positioned to understand complexities in the relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s educational outcomes, and an array of methodological approaches to minimize social selection biases. Given that children’s educational outcomes in early and middle childhood are associated with educational achievement and attainment throughout the life course, understanding how paternal incarceration is linked to these outcomes will shed light on intergenerational processes of social stratification.
Jie Zhang, Western Kentucky University
Jie Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Educational Research at Western Kentucky University. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on cognitive and psycholinguistic processes involved language and literacy development and the role of classroom discussion in children’s language, reading, and reasoning skills development, especially for English language learners. She has studied morphological awareness from perspectives of cross-language comparison and transfer, and word learning among native and nonnative Chinese learners. She aims to conduct research that can inform instruction and policy and is interested in developing and evaluating literacy intervention programs for diverse student populations.
Morphological Awareness and Word Learning in First and Second Language
Morphological awareness (i.e., understanding of complex words as combinations of meaningful units) is important for vocabulary growth and reading comprehension. However, how children use morphology (word parts) in learning the meanings of new words is less understood. The current study aims to understand the mechanism underlying the relationship of morphological awareness to English vocabulary and reading comprehension in native English speakers and English language learners. Using incidental word learning and paired associate word learning tasks, I will examine (a) whether children can use morphological cues to learn the meanings of new words with and without context, and (b) whether morphological awareness facilitates word learning ability, which in turn, contributes to vocabulary development and reading comprehension. Findings will enrich the theories of reading development and bilingualism, and provide practical implications for effective vocabulary instruction in first and second language.