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!”

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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

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dana Goldstein

Last week the Brown Education Department Speaker Series concluded for the semester with its fourth and final speaker of the year. The department welcomed Dana Goldstein, a 2006 Brown graduate, journalist, and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.

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In her book, Dana Goldstein asks, “Why is teaching the most controversial profession in America?” Historically, American public school teaching developed as an explicitly working class job. Yet at the same time that we pay public school teachers poorly, police their political activity, and prevent them from influencing the curriculum, we have come to expect teachers to play a key role in the eradication of poverty and inequality.

Goldstein outlined in her presentation how many attitudes about the school reform debate are old and cyclical rather than new conversations.  Moral panic, for example, has frequently caused us to focus on who is teaching rather than addressing structural issues. The concept of data-based reform is also not new, with the idea of pay tied to performance being almost a century old. Goldstein further outlined how valuable data that is not test scores is historically ignored, even if it yields important insights, such as how school funding correlates to teacher effectiveness. The media further exacerbates issues with this conversation by incentivizing focusing on extremes rather than on how to improve the average teacher.

Ultimately, Goldstein concluded by noting the underlying issue that education reform is usually done to teachers, not with teachers, and that if we are truly going to increase the prestige and effectiveness of American public school teaching, we need to use a new strategy: conceiving of teachers as intellectuals, and allowing them to collaborate to exercise real professional discretion and leadership.

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dr. Ansley Erickson

The Brown Department of Education hosted another installment of its Speaker Series last week, and was proud to feature Dr. Ansley T. Erickson, Assistant Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Erickson co­-directs the collaborative and digital historical research project Educating Harlem.​ Dr. Erickson is a graduate of Brown University, class of 1995, with a B.A. in Education Studies and Political Science.

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As Dr. Erickson began her talk, she remarked how the classroom where we were assembled coincidentally held special significance for her. The lecture hall was the ​location of her first Brown University Education class, taught by the legendary education reform leader Ted Sizer, the Founding Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. We were further honored to have the late Sizer’s wife, Nancy Faust Sizer, present in the audience for Dr. Erickson’s presentation.

American schools today are starkly segregated by race and class. After a few decades of limited attention to this problem, advocates are calling for a new era of desegregation. Dr. Erickson walked the group through her research on the history of desegregation in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the longest-­running, broadest, and most statistically successful school desegregation plans in the country, and indicated how her case study could offer important lessons, and at times cautions, for desegregation efforts going forward.

Dr. Erickson pointed out various systemic roadblocks to true integration. For example, despite the new illegality of school segregation in the 1960s, it continued to be unofficially enforced by the state due to federal suburban home financing only being available to white families. Once busing was introduced, a more genuine integration began, however this still raised the moral question of if a black student’s education was “equal” if they were systemically being told that in order to receive a quality education they must be removed from their communities.

Dr. Erickson argued that fostering equality today depends on reckoning with segregation’s deep roots, desegregation’s complex history, and considering these intricate questions.

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dr. Douglas Harris

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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!

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series Presents Dr. Luther Spoehr

The Brown Education Department Speaker Series kicked off this week, and was proud to feature Dr. Luther Spoehr, a Senior Lecturer in Education and History at Brown University, and the Director of Brown Undergraduate Studies. Spoehr’s main activities at Brown involve teaching about the history of American higher education and the history of American school reform. His First-Year Seminar, “Campus on Fire,” looks at American colleges and universities in the 1960s. Other courses include a survey of the history of American higher education, the history of intercollegiate athletics, and the history of academic freedom. Dr. Spoehr also does work on best practices in the teaching of history and frequently consults with schools and school systems that want to improve their history teaching.

This Wednesday, Dr. Spoehr delivered a presentation to the Department of Education entitled “Francis and Ira’s (Sometimes) Excellent Adventures: Wayland, Magaziner, and Curriculum Reform at Brown,” a talk outlining the research Spoehr has conducted into Brown’s curriculum journey since the University’s founding in 1764.

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Dr. Spoehr began by discussing the University’s roots as a small school of approximately 80 male students, being taught Latin and the classics by a single professor, and then touched upon the (at the time) outlandish reforms implemented by President Francis Wayland in the 1800’s, allowing for modern languages and practical skills such as agriculture, and science and chemistry applied to the arts.  These reforms were considered a failure initially, supposedly attracting a lower caliber of students, but today are frequently sited as being “ahead of their time”.

Brown University’s “New Curriculum” of no required core curriculum or distribution requirements was not born until the 1960’s, when student activists led by undergraduate Ira Magaziner (whom Dr. Spoehr has had the privilege of interviewing for his research) pushed for more engaging and utilitarian courses.  Elements of Magaziner’s New Curriculum exist to this day at Brown University, and current faculty in the audience remarked that it is because of the lack of requirements at Brown that they can be sure that when they walk into a classroom, their students want to be there.

UEP Alumni Speak at GradCON ’15

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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.

UEP Program Co-Hosts “Providence Talks” First Policy Forum

This week, Providence Talks, an initiative founded in 2013 by the City of Providence in partnership with Brown University, held its first open policy forum at Brown in an event co-sponsored by the UEP Program. The Providence Talks initiative aims to improve the vocabularies of preschool children, thereby setting them up for success and shrinking the long-term achievement gap between students of low-income and high-income families.  Providence was awarded $5 million after winning the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life.  Now wrapping up its pilot phase and scheduled to scale to an additional 750 households within the next year, the wealth of data coming out of the Providence Talks project will be evaluated by Brown University and Urban Education Policy researchers in the years ahead in order to fine-tune what works and what does not work about the program.

The forum was open to the public and attended by members of the Brown and Providence communities.  University of Chicago’s Dr. Dana Suskind, author of Thirty Million Words, spoke on the research that has lead to the development of this program, and panelists Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Bloomberg Philanthropies Anne Emig, Dr. Dana Suskind, and UEP Director Dr. Kenneth Wong answered a variety of questions about the program during an open Q&A session with the enthusiastic audience.

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