ASU Center for Educational Opportunity Convenes Teacher Leaders for an Open Discussion on Reclaiming Humanity in Trauma-Informed Classrooms and Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline

More than 150 registered with almost 70 education advocates participating in the first of a series of webinars co-hosted by Albany State University Center for Educational Opportunity and Tall Poppy, Inc. on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. The discussion centered on teachers in their roles as advocates for social justice in schools. The session was facilitated by Katherine Bassett, CEO of Tall Poppy, Inc. and featured teacher leaders Kelisa Wing, 2017 Maryland Teacher of the Year, who shared solutions for dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline; and Kimberly Worthy, 2009 DC Teacher of the Year, who shared the work of reclaiming the humanity of children in trauma-informed classrooms. A link to the recording can be found here.

Albany State University Center for Educational Opportunity Awards Research Grants

With generous support from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Center for Advancing Opportunity, Albany State University Center for Educational Opportunity has selected its 2020-2021 grantees. Projects selected for research funding include:

Dr. Sheila Gregory, Clark Atlanta University (Educational Model)

Identify strategies to provide improved access for LGBTQIAP students of color, while providing multiple activities for students, parents, teachers, counselors and community in positive and nurturing educational environments to garner greater learning outcomes and well being. The research project will span more than four Atlanta area school districts and five HBCUs.

Dr. Leah Hollis, Morgan State University (Educational Opportunity)

Study is designed to give voice to students who are affected by the abrupt change to online learning. Their insights and experiences can, in turn, inform school district administrators on what strategieswere successful for students and what strategies failed to bridge the gap for students who potentially have limited resources to engage online learning. The central research question is: How do students of color in a suburban community adjust to online learning during a disruptive disaster? To answer the research question, the principal investigator (PI) will interview a group of 11th and 12th grade students enrolled during the 2019-2020 academic year in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who experienced educational instruction disruption when schools were shuttered due to COVID-19.

Dr. Andrea Lewis, Spelman College (Educational Access)

Research seeks to explore how racial identity, agency and exposure to culturally-relevant school practices defines the experiences of Black elementary school girls attending school in predominantly White communities. Most literature on Black girls within school settings focuses on the criminalization, discipline and hypersexualism of middle and high school girls. Though the experiences of middle and high schools girls are important and impact adolescence, this study seeks to learn the elementary school experiences of Black girls, especially those in majority schools and the impact it has on future learning and identity.

Dr. Megan Lyons, North Carolina Central University (Educational Opportunity)

Students from fragile communities are much more likely to experience traumatic events when compared to their non-economically disadvantaged counterparts. Consequently, this can cause them to have poor peer interactions and lead to classroom disruptions and increased discipline referrals. Additionally, often parents in fragile communities often work long hours which also can limit their involvement with their child’s school. From this research, the goal is to determine which skills will best equip parents in fragile communities in meeting their child’s social emotional needs. Targeting African American and Hispanic families, the goal is to better meet the needs of the whole child, thereby honing academic and social emotional skills.

Dr. Felicia Mayfield, Clark Atlanta University (Educational Innovation)

There is a significantly low rate of male teachers of less than 2% of the teaching population. Clark Atlanta University is committed to changing the narrative in its school community. After conducting preliminary research, there was a need for the collection of additional data for creating models that encourage males of color to continue their pursuit of education as a career choice.

Dr. Nicole Taylor, Spelman College (Educational Innovation)

An area within education that has sustained attention over the last few years is family and community engagement. This is due to a number of factors including current legislation (i.e., Every Student Succeeds Act) that points to the importance of partnering with families and communities to strengthen children’s educational skills and experiences. Study will address the need to engage and accommodate families in their student’s learning experiences. The population of focus will be (majority) African American families with elementary students enrolled in Title I schools.

Ms. Lisa Puga, Rutgers University (Educational Access)

Many critiques of homeschooling focus upon the ways that homeschooling perpetuates inequalities in the public system, and the material/cultural privilege that is required in order to homeschool. Additionally, homeschooling is seen as a “cocooning” practice, where children are shielded from religious or philosophical differences and are explicitly taught of the dangers in secular society. This stereotype about homeschoolers is truly made absurd when acknowledging many black families’ narratives who faced grave discrimination, explicit racist interactions, or problematic stereotypes within the school system. Study will examine the complex portrait of urban homeschooling.

Winning proposals were selected based on the research plan, impact on removing barriers to high-quality education, and potential of improving K-12 education. At the close of the grant cycle, research findings will be shared via conferences and symposia, peer-reviewed publications, symposia, and websites.

About Us

The Center for Educational Opportunity was established on April 13, 2018. As a research center, our aim is to support outcomes-based, impact research with a focus on four pillars: educational opportunity, educational models, educational innovations and educational access. Our mission is the advance educational research in order to strengthen and empower fragile communities from the bottom up.



National Home Education Research Institute Examines Barriers to Homeschooling In Fragile Communities

By: Dr. Brian Ray

Many millions of parents now find themselves as school-teachers-at-home during this serious health concern and are finding out that they, as parents, are teachers, by definition. Parents should relax and enjoy their children and realize that relationship and learning are more valuable than “following the institutional school curriculum.” 

Parents, read aloud to your child for 15 minutes per day and have them read aloud to you something they choose for 15 minutes per day. Discuss what you read. Have your child write a letter per day to grandma, the zookeeper, or the store-owner. Help him or her do a math lesson, at whatever level he or she is, then move on to the next.

There are many “free” online learning resources that are not dependent on public and private school systems that homeschoolers have been effectively using for decades. Go on long walks with your child. Remember to relax and enjoy learning with your children and not try to duplicate institutional school in your home.

If your child cannot yet read, go online and find a simple and enjoyable phonics program, and do it together. You can do, in home-based education, generally in two hours with a child what it takes about 6 hours for him or her to accomplish in six hours in traditional school.  Although many families are not able at this time to go to libraries, museums, and family co-ops (co-operatives) as homeschoolers usually do, the barriers to homeschooling are coming down across the United States and around the world as parents find out that they are competent to teach and do not necessarily need government-provided curriculum, state-licensed teachers, and $12,000 of tax dollars for their children to learn and enjoy learning.

Parents who have been forced to teach at home are learning many of the things that the last 35 years of homeschooling have brought to the table.
For more insights, view Dr. Ray’s recent interview on WGN9 Chicago

The Center for Educational opportunity has funded research for Brian Ray, Ph.D., founder of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) to survey and talk with parents in fragile communities, with special attention given to African Americans in Georgia to determine and understand the barriers to homeschooling for them and identify factors that would mitigate these barriers.

Researcher Evaluates Teach for America Retention Efforts in Fragile Communities

Teach for America (TFA) has long-sought to improve schools and educational outcomes in fragile communities. However, the organization has struggled to attract and to retain teaching candidates to these communities. Especially in the rural south, TFA participation rates are low, while teacher burnout and exit rates are high with some regions seeing entire cohorts leave after their two year commitment is complete. 

TFA implemented a new program at the 2019 Teach For America corps who were trained at Teach For America’s Greater Delta Institute and adopted new practices designed to foster greater personal commitment and love for rural communities. 

TFA hopes to catalyze partnerships and sustainable, bottom-up efforts that address the community’s needs. Research will evaluate the efficacy of the new community immersion program through a randomized control trial.

The Center for Educational Opportunity has funded Albert Cheng, Ph.D. who will evaluate the efficacy of the new community immersion program through a randomized control trial.

Methods that improve teacher retention among the Teach for America corps, will provide much-needed continuity of learning for students.

Morehouse College Professor Pilots Life Success Readiness Curriculum for High-Risk Populations

Systemic economic deprivation in black and brown communities is rampant in America. Breaking the cycle requires collective societal focus and action. Dr. Belinda Johnson White, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Leadership, Morehouse College; Atlanta, Georgia, believes that targeted educational interventions play a crucial and critical role in addressing economic scarcity issues in minority communities. White’s successful work of more than 27 years teaching leadership skills, self-efficacy and life success skills at Morehouse College, demonstrates the power of formal life-skills educational intervention to the success of black and brown lives. 

Using the leadership development model created through her teaching and research, White is building a holistic life success curriculum targeted to middle and high school students (6th – 12th grade boys and girls) in fragile communities in urban and rural populations. The curriculum goal is to assist young learners in developing and practicing personal leadership and professionalism skills in order to form habits of excellence that will lead to life-long success through economic stability and growth, self-sufficiency, entrepreneurial mindset, and generational wealth. 

The Center for Educational Opportunity has funded the Phase 1 pilot curriculum. It was launched in October 2019 through the ASPIRE (Amazing Students Putting in Resilient Effort) Program at Alabama State University (ASU), Montgomery, Alabama, where Cynthia Handy serves as director. ASPIRE is an after-school enrichment program located on the campus of Alabama State University. ASPIRE partners with Montgomery Public Schools to encourage students to stay in school, foster college-preparatory academic success, and promote positive social development.

“The beauty of Dr. White’s model is the holistic approach to personal development—a life experience based on spiritual, physical, social, emotional, academic and financial well-being,” said Handy.