PPSD Superintendent Addresses UEP XII Cohort

On Wednesday, June 28, our 12th Brown University Urban Education Policy cohort gathered at the Providence Biltmore for a UEP dinner featuring keynote remarks by Providence Public School District Superintendent Chris Maher.

lovely view from the UEP dinner at Providence Biltmore

UEP Program Director Kenneth Wong

Superintendent Maher provided a candid overview of the state of Providence public schools Continue reading

2017 Brown Urban Education Policy Conference

On May 16, 2017, the Brown University Urban Education Policy Master’s Program held its annual conference, featuring presentations of the work of the internships of 23 UEP students (a 24th in spirit from the maternity ward!) related to creating, supporting, and sustaining an equitable education system. UEP-Conference1

The day began with opening remarks by Dr. Kenneth Wong, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of Education Policy and Chair of the Department of Education.

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Panel 1 (“Involving Diverse Stakeholders To Build Student Agency and Civic Capacity”) was moderated by Professor Andrea Flores and featured UEP student panelists Melanie Bowdish, Maureen Dizon, Rebecca Lessard, Jeanine Mason, Sabrina Uribe-Ruggiero, and Kunal Vasudev. Teach for America Alumna Kristine Frech served as the panel discussant.

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Panel 2 (“Assessing and Monitoring Conditions for Student Success”) was moderated by Professor John Papay and featured UEP student panelists Sam Ashley, Dalma Diaz, Martin Quirk, Michael Ricci, Kelly Rosiles-Villagomez, and Chun Wu. Mateus Baptista from the office of the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey served as the panel discussant.

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Tom Flanagan, Chief Academic Officer of the Providence Public School District, provided an engaging keynote speech during the lunch portion of the conference, providing his own perspective on education equity.

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Panel 3 (“Ensuring Equitable Opportunities to Improve Outcomes for All Learners”) was moderated by Professor Michael Grady and featured UEP student panelists Madalyn Ciampi, Briana Jimenez, Evert Justice Finger, Emily Lysaght, Karina Rodriguez, and Harkaran Uppal. Brown UEP alumna and Harvard Ed.D. candidate Heather Johnson served as the panel discussant.

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Panel 4 (“Supporting Positive School Culture”) was moderated by Professor Matthew Kraft and featured UEP student panelists Megan Baker, Donald Kost, Ariel Neumann, Erica Prenda, Rebecca Salzman- Fiske, and John Sharrott. Kirtley Fisher, Performance Management Executive at the Rhode Island Department of Education, served as the panel discussant.

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Site supervisors, colleagues, and friends of the 23 presenters learned about fascinating internship projects, many that will continue to be pursued in months and years to come, by Brown UEP students at sites in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Washington, D.C., ,and India.

The Brown Department of Education congratulates all of our Urban Education Policy master’s program students for their wonderful work and presentations!

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Q&A with Professors Flores and Rangel

While working on this year’s UEP newsletters, our UEP student ambassadors had an opportunity to pose questions to our two newest faculty members about their research and teaching. Meet Assistant Professor of Education Andrea Flores and Assistant Professor of Education David Rangel!

 

Andrea-Flores

Andrea Flores

SAs: “How does your work inform the efforts to reshape public education?”

 

AF: “Broadly, ethnographic educational research is a window into how the reshaping of public education affects the lives of students, teachers, and families. My research–focused on Latino youth who participate in a nonprofit college access program and their transitions out of high school  in Nashville, Tennessee–demonstrates how youth experience this process, their motivation to persist in school, and the challenges they face in both their low-performing schools and in this successful intervention. Thus, my research informs policy and school reform by documenting the everyday experience of the public educational system, its failings, and its opportunities to aid students. Theoretically, I examine how third sector outsourcing of school-based services creates a tiered and privatized system of college access. Additionally, my work explores the roadblocks facing undocumented students’ college access, e.g  the inability to apply for federal and state-based financial aid and these students’ exclusion from certain public higher educational institutions.”

SAs: “What is the biggest takeaway you want students to have from your courses?”

AF: “Of course, each class I teach has different thematic and content-based takeaways. Universally, I hope students leave my classes with an appreciation for qualitative and ethnographic research’s contribution to our understanding of the individual lives affected by policy and its intended and unintended consequences.”

Continue reading

UEP Professors and Alumna Rank #1 in Best Quality Teacher Research of 2016

nctq-trophy-award-icon_bestof2016_654432Brown University Department of Education professors John Papay and John Tyler teamed up with Brown UEP alumna Mary Laski, along with Harvard Graduate School of Education Assistant Professor of Economics and Education Eric Taylor, on their publication, “Learning Job Skills from Colleagues at Work: Evidence from a Field Experiment Using Teacher Performance Data.”

The publication has topped the National Council on Teacher Quality‘s 2016 list of outstanding papers by teacher education researchers. Congratulations to Mary, John and John!

Recap of Education Department Fall 2016 Speaker Series Lecture: Hilary Levey Friedman

friedman1On Nov. 10, 2016, dozens of Brown students, faculty and staff gathered in the Barus Building to hear Hilary Levey Friedman, Visiting Assistant Professor in American Studies at Brown University, present “Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture” in the fourth installment of the Brown Education Department Fall 2016 Speaker Series.

Dr. Levey Friedman, whose presentation shared the title of a book she authored a book, has done extensive research on competitiveness among American children. She noted that in 1980, children had a roughly 90% likelihood of earning the same salary as their parents. By 2010, that number had plummeted to just 50%. People are responding pathologically to a fear of inequality, worried that their children won’t be as successful as they were. Thus, Levey Friedman has studied how “winning” has become central to many American children’s lives.

All of her data, Levey Friedman explained, is on elementary school children in the 5th grade or younger, and all on organized sports and activities run by adults. On a spectrum between “just for fun” and “training for the Olympics,” the groups in her data fell very slightly to the right of center; the parents didn’t want their kids to be professional players, but they did want them to succeed and win. Everyone was already involved in the activities when Levey Friedman began her field work.

friedman2In 2013, 7.7 million U.S. children were on high school sports teams. In soccer alone, there were 3 million kids between the ages of 5 and 19. Sports have become a part of middle class and upper middle class culture. 100 years ago, competitive sports would have been considered a staple of poor and immigrant families, while wealthier American children practiced non-competitive sports and activities such as dance and music.

Mandatory schooling laws during the 19th century planted seeds of competition, Levey Friedman stated, which brought about a social shift for kids. Sports leagues evolved, eventually coming into the spotlight. By 1910, many states featured sports clubs (although many closed during or immediately after the Depression). Then the YMCA shifted to a fee-based model, which spread across the country and remains today. In 1929, Pop Warner football was founded; in 1939, Little League was founded. Just ten years later, Little Leaguers played their first World Series, which shows how quickly the movement to competitiveness happened in the U.S. By 1959, there were 5,000 sports leagues, a model which became the norm for today’s Americans.

In the 1970s, California became the base for a self-esteem movement in schools that spread across the nation over the next decade. Physical education teachers helped push organized activities out of schools, which resulted in tying sports into the private sector. Pay-to-play sports became popular. By 2005, the number of national championships had grown from 100 to 250. The ages that a player could be a champion had also lowered across the nation, creating competitiveness at younger and younger ages.

friedman3College readiness also became a factor, as the more elite sports and activities were tied into admission practices. College admissions in the U.S., Levey Friedman noted, have had an interesting history. She cited Jerome Karabel’s book The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton on how “the big three” kept out undesirable students, mainly the poor and the immigrant. The “all-around man” rose in admissions interviews, and it became important to be an athlete and to belong to clubs in order to attain quality higher education.

The three activities Levey Friedman focused on represented academic activities (chess, an individual activity, mainly populated by boys); artistic activities (dance, a solo or group sport, mainly populated by boys); and athletic activities (soccer, a team sport, played equally by boys and girls).

Competitive Kid Capital – Levey Friedman collected various quotes from kids and parents about their experiences with sports and analyzed the sports’ impact. She found that sports:

  1. Internalize the importance of winning
  2. Allow kids to bounce back from a loss to win again in the future (but, Friedman noted, also represent higher stakes, as scores and stats are usually public information)
  3. Help kids learn how to perform in and adapt to stressful situations, and time pressure
  4. Allow kids to perform under the public gaze of others

Gender Scripts in Sports

friedman4When asked how they chose these activities, parents differed in what they sought for their kids. Soccer parents wanted their girls to be more assertive and aggressive; dance parents wanted their girls to be more feminine and graceful. The dance environment was kinder and more supportive, with indirect competition and relational skills. Soccer taught kids to be forceful; it discouraged “girly girls.” Women who chase balls and score on a soccer field are metaphorically being trained to chasing and scoring other things in life. Chess is similar to soccer for girls; the girls learn to be aggressive when playing.

Skills learned by kids in sports and activities translate into job acquisition skills, Levey Friedman noted. Lauren Riviera’s Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs exposes how employers draw ideas about candidates’ talents based on their activities, sports, and social status. Levey Friedman shared a slide on how the parents she studied are grooming their children. For example, 52% of children who played chess had two parents who had earned graduate degrees; only 8% of children taking dance had two parents with graduate degrees. Chess parents thought of the game as a path towards success in higher education, while dance parents thought dancing well would help their daughters attract a mate and find success in marriage. Parents were feeling stress to help their kids succeed on a potentially unequal playing field and were enrolling them in activities on a path to attaining things they felt were important to them.

friedman5The Education Department thanks Dr. Levey Friedman and all the other presenters of the Fall 2016 Speaker Series for taking the time to present their research to the Brown community.

UEP Alumna Branta Lockett ’16 in BEST Program

Branta Lockett

Branta Lockett

The Brown Education Department would like to share an interview given to the Brown Graduate School by Branta Lockett, AM ’16, about her experience in the Brown Executive Scholars Training (BEST) program. BEST, established in 2010, is designed to expose doctoral and advanced master’s degree students to careers in higher education administration. Every fall, eight to 10 graduate students are chosen to participate in this 12-week mentored, education and training program, which is sponsored by the Graduate School and the Office of Institutional Diversity.

 

How did you hear about the BEST program? What made you want to apply?
I initially heard about the BEST program while attending Admit Day in March 2016. During this event Dr. Wong, Chair of the Education department, mentioned that several of the Urban Education Policy students participated in the BEST program and had great experiences. I decided to apply to the BEST program because I wanted to learn more about higher education administration. In particular, I wanted to learn how administrators can use their positions to help create environments that support the success of marginalized students at a university.

How has or how will this program help you in your career or studies after Brown?
This program will help me in my career because it exposed me to different leadership styles. I learned practical skills that I can use in professional settings.

Did you already have a career plan in mind? Has this program influenced you in any way to change/alter it?
Before participating in the BEST program, I considered a career in higher education administration. The BEST program convinced me to continue pursuing my interests in higher education administration and to even start looking for jobs that combine higher education administration with education policy, which is what I studied at Brown.

Who was your administrative sponsor and what did you learn or enjoy about working with him or her?
Dr. Gail Cohee was my administrative sponsor. I enjoyed speaking with her about her position [as Director of the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center and Associate Dean of the College] and how she uses her administrative role to help improve the experiences of students at Brown University. I also enjoyed learning about her career path to becoming a senior administrator.

What piece of advice provided by the speakers resonated most with you?
Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo, Vice President for Academic Development, Diversity and Inclusion, gave us great advice for how to manage encounters with students and faculty who are upset or distressed about a given situation. She explained to us that the person is most likely upset because they are really passionate about the situation. Therefore, it is important to not only listen to their concerns but to really try to understand their perspectives and consider those perspectives as you try to help them resolve their concerns. Administrative work is demanding but it is important to honor how others feel and let them know that you care while also remembering not to take their criticisms personally. This is practical advice that is useful for working with people in any setting. 

Recap of Education Department Fall 2016 Speaker Series Presentation of “A Night with Clint Smith”

image5“Writing,” Clint Smith announced to a packed auditorium in Barus and Holley on Tuesday, Oct. 26, “is a means of wrestling with questions I don’t have answers to.” Smith – a writer, teacher, TED Talks speaker, Harvard University Ph.D. candidate, and 2014 National Poetry Slam champion – was presenting “Art and Critical Pedagogy: Using Poetry to Challenge Dominant Narratives” at the Education Department’s third Fall 2016 Speaker Series event.

Homer, Smith told the crowd, had an epic poem that was passed down from mouth to mouth. Writing only for the page is a false notion; poetry’s roots are as an oral art form. He then launched into a dynamic, thoughtful, and oftentimes hilarious presentation that had the rapt attention of more than 200 audience members, instructing his listeners on etiquette with a quick “snap during, clap after” request. During the rest of this talk, fingers snapped around the room at various times when his poems and statements resonated with audience members, quiet in sound but thunderous in reaction to and appreciation of his words.

Smith, who was born and raised in New Orleans, gave some background information on his relationships with his parents (urging audience members, when he spoke of his father’s experience obtaining an organ transplant, to sign up to be organ donors to help offset the transplant waiting lists that tend to be longer for people of color and people in poverty). Smith learned from his father at an early age – too early to fully understand at the time – that the implications of his decisions might result in different outcomes than for Smith’s non-black friends. Smith referred to Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old shot dead by police two years ago for holding a toy gun. Smith’s father’s fears had been real. When he recited one of his poems following that introduction, two lines in particular drove home what Clint had just spoken of: “Someone’s idea of implicit bias might be the reason you might not wake up in the morning,” and “I want to live in a world where my son isn’t presumed guilty from the moment he is born.”

image7Smith thanked Christina Villarreal, Brown’s director of secondary history education, for helping to reconceptualize the notion of history. History, Smith noted, doesn’t always address what isn’t convenient to the narrative. Thomas Jefferson is celebrated as a president and historical figure, but many stories ignore the fact that he was a racist and a slaveholder. Jefferson didn’t try to hide this but in fact spoke his thoughts openly and published them. In his mind, black people didn’t have the capacity to create art; if they did put words on a page, it couldn’t be called poetry. Blacks, Jefferson believed, didn’t have the capacity to love. The dominant American narrative, Smith explained, was a state-sanctioned policy to marginalize and dehumanize a race. When we think of the civil rights movement, we think of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a celebrated figure – but at the time, ⅔ of Americans disapproved of King, just as many Americans today mischaracterize or judge the Black People Matter movement. In our collective American social memory, we don’t talk about these things. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal is celebrated in history books, but the New Deal was written to deny black citizens access to the very benefits it promised Americans – Social Security, GI bill, mortgages, minimum wage, and more. The New Deal may have created the middle class, but it skipped a huge section of the country, and politicians legally enacted law barring blacks from social benefits – yet people today point fingers at black citizens, asking why blacks are more likely to live in poverty than others.

Look at our history, Smith implored. The first blacks were brought to America as slaves in 1619. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t pass until 1863. Voting and civil rights weren’t passed until 1964 and 1965 – only 50 years ago – and there are still issues of inequality today. America, Smith stressed, enjoyed 350 years of history in which it was legal to dehumanize blacks. We need to talk about this in our classrooms, and most of us don’t. In response to that propagation of myth, Clint read from his poem, “Letter to Five of the Eight Presidents Who Owned Slaves While in Office.” When talking about getting both sides of the story, the poem stated, “At some point, you have to question who the writer is.”

smith5We live in a world, Smith said, where blacks can be stopped, can be frisked, can have assumptions made about their personalities at first sight. There is duality in our history; Jefferson was a good president, AND he was a racist and a slave holder. Both sides exist; both sides should be acknowledged. Smith then read five poems, each one on what an inanimate object – an ocean, a cicada, a fire hydrant, a window, and a cathedral – would say to black boys. The audience was spellbound at these unusual but powerful narrative views.

Only moments later, versatile speaker Smith had the audience laughing at his descriptions of his failures as a basketball player. Smith had always been chosen among the first for teams – resulting in disaster, as described in one line from the next poem: “My jump shot be all elbow and no wrist.” Counting Descent, Smith acknowledged, was about speaking the truth – the whole truth.

Mike Brown was killed the same week that Smith started grad school, and Smith has been writing the book these past two years in a post-Ferguson context. Smith wanted to humanize death of and violence toward blacks; the feelings he is grappling with are real and visceral. We’re not defined, Smith stated, by the things that kill us or seek to render us obsolete. There is a U.S. history of violence against blacks, but it is also amazing how fundamental black culture is to U.S. history. Blacks helped build this country, and they are woven into its fabric.

My life has not been entirely defined by violence and fear, Smith continued. He has attempted to capture black resilience and joy amid the greater, sadder black American landscape. Both sides are important to understanding the black experience. He told of the sweetness (and, to his young self, embarrassment) of his parents dancing together in the kitchen to “Before I Let You Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze, which later inspired him to capture that moment in a poem he read to the audience.

The writer/poet label, Smith restated, doesn’t necessitate answers; it’s a means of wrestling with questions. If we ask questions we already have the answers to, we negate that process. We need to rethink concepts and re-imagine who police are and what they do. Look at us now, Smith, who works with prisoners, asked the audience. We are a society that puts people into cages for life. Remember how the French used to cut off heads with a guillotine? For us that’s barbaric; for them it was a normal way of life. Someday we’ll look back at life imprisonment with similar eyes to looking at guillotines. We have 200,000 people in the United States serving life sentences in jails, and we haven’t pushed ourselves towards different solutions to our problems. Don’t just tinker, Smith appealed; tackle.

Smith’s last poem was about the trauma caused by Hurricane Katrina, and the audience reacted with enthusiastic snaps at the haunting line, “Can you claim something as your own if you don’t remember how you found it?”

In response to Smith’s invitation for questions, someone asked about the influence of his father. Smith cautioned teachers to be careful about filling a parent role for students. Many of the prisoners he’d worked with hadn’t had biological fathers, and Smith recognized that and was careful not to position himself as anything but a peer; anything else would be disingenuous. Look at the Moynihan report, Smith said; black family structure is being blamed for problems in black society. Racism is the reason for those problems, not female heads of households or non-nuclear families. Neither he nor anyone else should seek to fill in a family gap; instead, Smith engages with prisoners and learns from them. The classroom isn’t one-way, Smith told the audience full of future teacher leaders. Students bring ideas and knowledge into classrooms, too; it can and should be a shared collective experience. Don’t set out to teach; set out to engage.

smith8Another question addressed the balance between criticism and exposure of history. Smith acknowledged that it’s a difficult balance; we want to show students that the world sees blacks as less than human but let them know they’re not responsible. Students need to be shown both sides: the world is set up for them to fail, but they have the agency to change things. Different decisions can be made. They can wield their power; they can build a different world.

What’s the difference for you, another student asked, between writing for the page versus the stage? Also, regarding Smith’s Ph.D. research at Harvard, how does Smith use poetry with prisoners?

Writing is a process and a practice, Smith responded. Several times, he has made himself do a “30 for 30,” writing a poem every single day for a month. Just as with sports, you have to practice to write; in his case, he had to write 25 bad poems in order to write 5 good ones. You have to do the work to create the work, he advised the audience.

As for the written page, Smith cautioned against positioning the page as more valuable than the stage. They are different genres that feed in different ways, and appearing in a reputable publication isn’t necessarily a bigger indication of success than winning a poetry slam. Smith did acknowledge that he wrote for the page in the case of Counting Descent to break out of a competitive context. He’d been writing poems to fit the 2.5-minute frame for slams, and he wanted to experiment with other lengths, which led to other material and expressions.

In Smith’s Ph.D. program at Harvard, there is a relationship between the social scientist and the artist. Both are part of him. What he internalizes academically often surfaces artistically, and writing is a form of expressing both personal and political values. His next book, Smith revealed, will focus on the relationship between education and incarceration.

In response to a question about using pedagogy to become a better person and the relationship between art and ethics, Smith said he entered grad school committed to avoiding inaccessibility; he’d been seeking the intellectual toolkit to name and understand things. He has the language to argue against misconceptions and misnomers and to challenge ideas like that of “black-on-black crime.” Smith enjoys his work in the prisons because he had wanted to be in a space that reminds him of why he came to this field of study. He doesn’t want to just read books; he wants to ground the knowledge he’s seeking and stay in touch with the reasons why he’s there.

In response to the final question – about whether he writes to challenge and assert himself – Smith stated that people write about poverty to legitimize themselves and their social institutions. Those people use narratives to benefit themselves without helping the people to whom the stories belong. It’s important to illuminate those people. It’s important to think about and account for the fact that this is people’s lives and not just a vehicle for people to gain tenure or publications or a name for themselves.

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Smith thanked the crowd for coming and for asking great questions, and he offered to sign copies of Counting Descent. Thrilled by Smith’s performance, autograph seekers filled the hallway.

UEP Student Internship Intertwines with White House

bidensUrban Education Policy graduate student Madalyn Ciampi’s internship with Civic Nation has opened new doors for her – most recently, the doors to the home of Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

Civic Nation’s College Promise Campaign, which builds public support for making community college free of tuition and fees for students, intertwines with the White House, as the campaign stems from President Obama’s America’s Promise initiative.

Last week, Ciampi helped host a three-day “PromiseNet 2016” conference in Washington, D.C. as part of her internship. On the last day of the conference, she and her colleagues hosted a convening at the White House, and Dr. Jill Biden, the honorary chair of the campaign’s National Advisory Board, invited the group to a luncheon at her and the Vice President’s home before they returned to the White House for the National Advisory Board meeting.

When asked how her internship and passion for Civic Nation ties into her graduate studies at Brown University, Ciampi responded,

“I think that one of the most valuable components of the internship so far has been seeing the behind-the-scenes, hands-on aspect of education policy, which I feel really complements the classroom-based learning in UEP. The campaign is working to build public support, and this also involves promoting economic implications of making college accessible and affordable, to incentive governmental stakeholders, businesses, etc. to back the movement. I’ve also found the conversation around the importance of research in moving the College Promise forward to be really interesting, given that this is a huge component of UEP. In this respect I feel that the courses in the UEP program have prepared me to be much more well-versed in the work that I’m doing in my internship.

The internship component of my education has already benefited me greatly, and I am looking forward to seeing how it may continue to complement and build upon my classroom learning!”

2016 Speaker Series Presenter Jason Okonofua Discusses Threat, Bias and Stereotypes

okonofua1Students lined the seats, the walls, and even the floors of the Dewey Conference Room of the Barus Building on Tuesday, Oct. 18 to hear Stanford University Assistant Professor in Psychology Jason Okonofua present, “”When Bias and Threat Persistently Interact: A Holistic Approach to Understand the Lingering Effects of Stereotypes.”

Dr. Okonofua began with a live demonstration of implicit bias, asking the audience to guess how many triangles were in a figure he displayed. Audience answers varied from three to eight, but the real answer was zero. As the sides of the triangles were incomplete and unconnected, they were not making complete shapes. Our brains, Okonofua explained, are wired to take in information and fill in missing gaps. We humans tend to categorize, to favor our own, and to make judgments without having complete information. Continue reading

Nora Gordon Kicks Off Fall 2016 Education Department Speaker Series

On Thursday, Sept. 22, students, faculty and staff gathered over lunch in the Barus Building Dewey Conference Room for the first of the Department of Education’s four-part fall semester speaker series. Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy Associate Professor Nora Gordon kicked off the series with her dynamic presentation, “Medicaid, Special Education, and Children’s Access to Health Services.”

Education Dept. Chair Kenneth Wong and Dr. Nora Gordon

Education Dept. Chair Kenneth Wong and Dr. Nora Gordon

Dr. Gordon, a research associate of the National Bureau of Education Research and an expert on Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has been studying school-based Medicaid billing for special education and trends in how states use categorical versus general aid for education. Looking around the room at various student teachers, she shared her excitement at talking about the project with people who have spent more time in schools than she has, then jokingly answered a query on how she balances teaching, research, advisory panels, and raising three kids (the secret to her success: an 8:30 p.m. bedtime). Then she briefed the audience on how in 1988 Congress authorized Medicaid to reimburse for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)-related services for children with special education needs. She had been surprised to learn just how large the Medicaid program is for school-aged children. Continue reading