Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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.”

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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!

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dr. Douglas Harris

Douglas Harris_Headshot
The Brown Education Department Speaker Series held its second installment last week, and was proud to feature Dr. Douglas Harris, a Professor of Economics, the Schleider Foundation Chair in Public Education, and founder and Director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans (ERA-New Orleans) at Tulane University.

Dr. Harris delivered a presentation to the Department entitled “Taken by Storm: The Post-Katrina New Orleans School Reforms and their Effects on Students“. The school reforms put in place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina represent the most intensive test-based and market-based school accountability system ever created in the United States. Collective bargaining ended, school choice expanded, and nearly all public schools were taken over by the state. Now ten years later, Harris’s study is providing New Orleans with the first examination of the effects of this package of reforms on student achievement.

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Harris walked Education Department faculty and students through his research step by step, showing that even when controlling the data for other influences, over time the reformed system of schools had clear, statistically significant positive effects on student outcomes.  Despite these encouraging initial results, Harris cautioned that this extreme overhaul approach may not be generalizable to other geographic locations, but was only successful in New Orleans due to a specific combination of circumstances, such as population characteristics and the rapid influx of passionate teachers to the area post-Katrina.

Student Perspective: Melissa Lovitz at ParentCamp USA

Students in the Urban Education Policy Program can apply for travel funding, allowing them to explore education conferences or attend meetings relevant to their internships.  Current student Melissa Lovitz (UEP ’16) recently took advantage of this travel program, flying to Washington D.C. to attend ParentCamp USA, an “un-conference” opportunity for parents and teachers to come together and model the four core beliefs highlighted in the book “Beyond the Bakesale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships“.

Melissa was kind enough to share some of her thoughts and reflections on her experience at ParentCamp USA. Read her words below!

“As part of my internship at Achievement First in Rhode Island, I had the opportunity to attend the first ParentCamp USA at the U.S. Department of Education. Not only did I have an incredible time but I also learned a lot. What follows are three lessons I gained from my experience.

  1. Networking is essential

My first reaction following ParentCamp USA was “there was so much networking!” I quickly realized that relationships and connections are inexplicably valuable in this work. My favorite moments of the day were from the conversations I had and the individuals I met. I loved sharing insights, questions, and concerns. I also really appreciated hearing directly from parents about their experiences and ideas regarding family and community engagement. The ParentCamp USA space was designed so that everyone (researchers, students, nonprofit managers, parents, etc.) was considered important in the discussions and workshops. Therefore, it was easy to engage in meaningful exchanges. Over and over again I experienced moments when it “clicked” and I knew I was in the right field. I knew what I was talking about and felt confident participating. I was motivated by each person I met and by everything I was hearing and learning.

  1. Talking about parent engagement without parents is irresponsible

One of the most meaningful challenges I left ParentCamp USA grappling with is the question of whether parents are partners or simply puppets. Ideally, schools and families strive to achieve authentic partnerships based on trusting relationships and collaborations. However, in practice this is not always exhibited. More often, parent involvement is driven by the school’s terms rather than the families’. In this way, when parents’ voices and ideas are not aligned with the school’s ideas, parent involvement and participation is not always appreciated. Based on what we are learning in our UEP coursework and what I experienced at ParentCamp USA, effective, genuine family engagement cannot be achieved unless parents have equal status and importance in the school environment and their voices are acknowledged as critical in conversations about family engagement.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of your “digital business card”

On the day of the event, #ParentCampUSA was the #2 trending hashtag on Twitter. In Co-Coordinator Dr. Joe Mazza’s opening remarks, Dr. Mazza urged ParentCamp USA attendees to participate in the “un-conference” online. He reminded us that networking is everywhere and explained the utility of each person’s “digital business card”. As we continue to live in a technologically consumed world, connections via social media can propel ideas forward and provide spaces to continue conversations well beyond the scope of a one-day event. While at first I was hesitant, because I was concerned I would be distracted, I did join the Twitter conversations and enjoyed seeing everyone’s thoughts and what they found important or valuable come up on the live feed throughout the day. This feature was especially influential for me during the closing session – a “smack down” designed to allow participants to share what they learned and their overall thoughts from the day.

ParentCamp USA inspired me to continue to learn about how to engage families, and to develop strategies that capitalize on the strengths and voices in each family and community.”

Thank you, Melissa!

UEP Alumni Speak at GradCON ’15


UEP Alumni Nikki Churchwell and Lindsey Cosgrove pose for a photo with current UEP students at GradCON.

This Saturday, November 14, 2015, the Graduate School held their annual Graduate Student Career Options Conference (GradCON); among the 42 Brown alumni invited to share their stories were two UEP Program alumni, Nikki Churchwell (UEP ’11) and Lindsey Cosgrove (UEP ’11).

Both shared how the knowledge and skills they gained from the UEP Program and Brown University prepared them to work in their current positions. Churchwell participated in the “Education” Alumni Panel, speaking of her experience working at Providence Plan and now as a Fellow at the U.S. Dept of Education. Cosgrove spearheaded the “Non-Profit” Alumni Panel, where she spoke of her role as Director of Institutional Philanthropy and Strategic Partnerships at Girl Scouts of Greater NY.

Current UEP students attending GradCON remarked that Churchwell and Cosgrove gave great advice on graduate school, interview prepping, and career choices, and appreciated the insight on how the skills and knowledge they gained during their UEP year were essential in moving forward into a career that fit their needs and interests.

Jasamine Young-Paulhill, UEP X, Named Ruth J. Simmons Scholar

JasamineJasamine Young-Paulhill was named the 2015 winner and the fourth recipient of the Ruth Simmons Urban Education Policy Scholarship. This full-tuition award is granted annually by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University to the UEP student who most epitomizes the former Brown University president’s commitment to education equity and social justice.

Young-Paulhill, a Philadelphia native, is a 2014 graduate of Oberlin College, with a BA in Hispanic Studies and Creative Writing. During the 2014-2015 academic year, she served with City Year Chicago as the extended learning time coordinator on her team, working to improve the daily attendance, academic performance, and social-emotional skills of 20–40 at-risk students on a daily basis. While at Oberlin, she was an America Reads tutor site leader for students in grades 3–5.

Read more about Jasamine and the Ruth J. Simmons Urban Education Policy Scholarship here.

Internship Spotlight: UEPs Reflect on their Year at Work

Arguably the most distinctive feature of the UEP year at Brown University is the nine-month internship component of our program. Our academically rigorous coursework in research and theory is grounded in the day-to-day realities of practice in an urban education policy setting. Students select internships based on their personal career goals and academic interests, and so our cohort finishes their year with a variety of unique real-world experiences.

As their internships come to an end, four members of the current UEP cohort were kind enough to share their experiences with us.  Their stories represent just a small sample of what a UEP internship has to offer – experiences local and far, with non-profits and school districts, in areas data-driven and policy-focused.  Read their words below!


Juan Carlos Carranza, College Visions

My internship site this year through the UEP program has been with College Visions (CV), a non-profit organization in Providence that empowers low-income and first-generation college-bound students to realize the promise of higher education by providing advising and resources to promote college enrollment, persistence, and graduation. Specifically, I have been working as a data analyst within the College Success Program, which follows students through college from enrollment to graduation.

Last semester, I cleaned and compiled student data and used it to calculate enrollment, 1-to-2-year persistence, and graduation rates for each cohort of students. This information has been useful in reporting information to funders, community members, and the board of directors. This semester I have helped create a data dashboard that will provide advisers and program directors with real-time information on program performance.

Before UEP, I worked as a College Adviser with the College Advising Corps (CAC) at a high school in Providence. My work with the CAC helped provide me with a knowledge of the college access landscape in Rhode Island and nationally. My desire to continue working on issues surrounding college access and success led me to choose College Visions as my internship site. Through my work at CV, I’ve been able to get a deeper understanding of the challenges and supports that students face when trying to attain a college degree. I’ve been able to sit in on various meetings and engage with stakeholders throughout the state who are working in partnership to improve the opportunities for students in Providence. After UEP, I hope to continue working to ensure that all students in Rhode Island have equal access to post-secondary opportunities and support throughout their journey to college attainment.


Mateus Baptista, El Rancho Unified School District

I am working as a research consultant for the El Rancho Unified School District in Pico Rivera, California. I am researching the district’s college-going culture and to what extent it exists. I report directly to the Superintendent of Schools and have built relationships with various stakeholders from the Mayor, the board president, to families and students. I am drawn to this research because I am committed to increasing first-generation college attendance particularly at four-year universities. As the lead on this research project, I have enormous flexibility along with the necessary supports. This research project allows me to deeply explore an issue and determine the root cause of low college matriculation rates.

I have learned most importantly that I enjoy research and the autonomy it provides. This has helped me solidify a desire to pursue a PhD in the near future.


Reilly Pharo Carter, Leadership for Educational Equity

My internship this year was with Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Teach For America corps members and alumni to grow as leaders in their communities and help build the movement for educational equity.

Through my work on their policy team, I focused on building members’ understanding and expertise relating to policy development and implementation. I work directly for the Senior Director of Policy Strategy and Support. Over the course of the year, my projects have ranged from the development of a new member toolkit aimed at building policy acumen for new members transitioning from the classroom to the policy world, to the support and planning of LEE’s annual Policy Leadership Academy, a three day, invitation-only conference for LEE’s most senior members.

I have deeply enjoyed my internship because it has provided me with opportunities to both expand my policy expertise, as well as expand the network of people I know in this field. My internship was virtual, so I was afforded a lot of flexibility and autonomy.

Sarah HalberstadtSarah Halberstadt, Annenberg Institute for School Reform

Through my internship as a Research Assistant at the Annenberg Center for School Reform, I have had the opportunity to use what I am learning in my UEP classes to help support the work of parents, young people, teachers, and activists at the front lines of education organizing.

I came to UEP straight from the classroom and knew that I wanted an internship that allowed me to practice policy analysis and research skills, but also enabled me to stay engaged with the people who I believe are the real education policy experts: students, educators, families, and communities. I got that opportunity through my work on Annenberg’s Pittsburgh Parent Power project funded by the Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh.

From day one, the small team of Annenberg staff leading this project has included me in meaningful work. I have helped to revise and create curriculum and materials, I have traveled with the team to Pittsburgh to help facilitate cohort gatherings, and I have had the chance to learn from and amplify the voices of over fifty incredible parent organizers.

The best part of my internship has been watching very smart people work together and involve others in their work. I have had the chance to see what it looks like to effectively combine research and organizing in a way that brings people into, rather than excludes them from, education policy conversations.

The UEP Speaker Series Presents Dr. Andrew Ho and Dr. Maia Cucchiara

With Brown’s spring semester officially under way, the Urban Education Policy Program was eager to resume its UEP Speaker Series!  Over the past two weeks, we proudly hosted two bright and engaging speakers at our campus – Dr. Andrew Ho and Dr. Maia Cucchiara:

Dr. Andrew Ho is a Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School Andrew Ho Headshotof Education. He is a psychometrician who studies test-based educational accountability metrics, and is also the chair of the HarvardX Research Committee that oversees research in Harvard University’s open online courses. His recent projects described bias in proficiency-based trends, developed robust achievement gap measures, and clarified the outcomes of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Drawing on his research on MOOCs, Dr. Ho delivered a presentation “HarvardX and MITx Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Outcomes from 2 years, 64 courses, and 1.5 million participants” to the UEP cohort.  MOOCs, online courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web, were the subject of media hype only a few years ago and promised to be “disruptive” to traditional education.  Now with several years’ worth of data to look at, researchers such as Dr. Ho are beginning to understand the challenges and complexities that come with trying to measure MOOCs’ actual effects on education and learning.

Dr. Ho’s (only somewhat) tongue-in-cheek rules for analyzing MOOCs “Rule #1: Know your numerator.  Rule #2: Know your denominator”, alluded to the fact that when dealing with literally millions of participants, changing your definitions can radically change your outcomes.

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Dr. Maia Cucchiara
is an Associate Professor of Urban Education at Temple Maia HeadshotUniversity. She holds a joint Ph.D. in Education and Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and applies a sociological lens to questions of urban education policy and practice. Maia studies school reform and its implications for equity and civic capacity. In particular, she is interested in the intersection between social policies, race, class, and the lived experiences of people targeted by policy initiatives.

Drawing on her ethnographic research of a public school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Cucchiara wrote her Ph.D. dissertation and published a book entitled “Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities: Who Wins and Who Loses When Schools Become Urban Amenities“.

Dr. Cucchiara’s book and presentation to UEP students focused on the Center City Schools Initiative: a marketing and rebranding campaign that took place in the early 2000’s in public, city center schools of Philadelphia.  The goal of the initiative was to improve public schools by getting more middle class students to attend Center City Schools, therefore increasing these schools’ tax base.  Dr. Cucchiara’s study involved interviewing hundreds of community stakeholders, and attending PTO and community meetings over a number of years.  Those interested in exploring the full conclusions of her important work should consider reading her book.

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The UEP program is so grateful that Dr. Ho and Dr. Cucchiara were able to visit Brown for our spring installment of the Speaker Series.  Thank you both for your insightful and fascinating presentations!

The UEP Speaker Series Presents Dr. Stella Flores

StellaLast week, the Urban Education Policy Speaker Series was proud to feature its second presenter of the semester, Dr. Stella Flores, an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Higher Education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. Dr. Flores has served as a program evaluator for the U.S. General Accountability Office, a program specialist for the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and a policy researcher for the Texas State Legislature and various city governments in Texas.

Drawing on her research on the impact of state and federal policies on college access and completion for low income and underrepresented populations, Dr. Flores delivered a presentation titled “Do English Language Learners Go to College? An Examination of Long­-Term Educational Trajectories”, which explored the impact of interventions, such as participation in ELL programs, on student outcomes like high school graduation and college attendance.

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UEP students were enthusiastic for the opportunity to hear Dr. Flores speak about her research. Current student Kirsten Schmitz remarked that “UEP students take Quantitative Research Methods and Data Analysis our first semester, and so Dr. Flores’ presentation was especially well-timed. It was empowering to engage with her data on a higher level, drawing on the skill set we’ve developed in class and applying it to her findings around English Language Learners and college access.”

While engaging, the presentation also illuminated another side of education research and analysis: that the data encountered in the real world is not as neat or complete as the problems practiced in a classroom setting.  UEP student Mateus Baptista noted that Dr. Flores’s work highlighted “the clear limitations of data sets and how researchers can only work with what they are given.” For instance, no data was available to Dr. Flores on students’ parents’ education levels, a factor which clearly may have some influence on student outcomes. These limitations served as a welcome reminder of the realities of education practice and research.

The UEP program is so grateful that Dr. Flores was able to visit Brown for the second installment of the Speaker Series, and looks forward to resuming in the Spring semester with new presentations!

Dr. Kenneth Wong Speaks to the Balance of Accountability and Sustainability

School turnarounds are no easy issue in education policy.  Balancing student supports, district accountability and long term sustainability pose serious challenges for states looking to take over their lowest performing schools and districts.  Dr. Kenneth Wong commented on the Illinois state takeover of two districts, East Saint Louis and North Chicago.  Dr. Wong, Professor at Brown University and Chair of the Urban Education Policy program, cautioned those celebrating initial successes in the state takeover by highlighting the need for sustainable supports and an strategy for long term school success.

Check out the full story and share your thoughts on the issue of school turnarounds and sustainability.