Media Mentions

Wisconsin should rethink its entire teacher certification process

August 20, 2019   |   By By Mark Schug and Scott Niederjohn

Milton Courier

In an attempt to address perceived teacher shortages, a bipartisan group of state legislators have introduced a bill that would make it easier for qualified teachers from other states to become licensed in Wisconsin. While there may be as many surpluses in the wide array of teaching disciplines as there are shortages, this bill advances a worthwhile reform.

Much more, however, can and should be done to overhaul Wisconsin’s deficient teacher certification process.

We have written reports critical of Wisconsin’s approach to teacher certification. One of us (Schug) worked for decades at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, administering aspects of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) certification rules. The other (Niederjohn) is a higher education administrator who understands firsthand how the fossilized DPI teacher certification rules affect students.

In a 2017 Badger Institute report titled Government’s Love for Licensure, we recommended that “The Legislature should allow teachers who have been certified in other states to be granted an appropriate Wisconsin teaching license with a minimum of hassle.” AB 195 is a good start.

The bill requires DPI to issue a teaching license based on reciprocity to an individual who holds a license from another state if the person taught in Wisconsin under a temporary license issued by DPI for at least two semesters and the school employer confirms that the applicant’s teaching experience was successful. It also changes a reciprocal teaching license from an initial license to a provisional license.

What is the national picture on teacher license reciprocity?

Thirteen states have full reciprocity (or something very close and with minimal burdens) by statute for out-of-state teachers.

Twenty-nine states have additional coursework requirements in place for out-of-state teachers.

Ten states have a test-out exemption for additional coursework for out-of-state teachers.

Fourteen states require out-of-state teachers with experience to provide evidence of effectiveness.

Some states have several of these requirements.

AB 195, based on the assumption that Wisconsin faces a severe teacher shortage, would move the Badger State from the category that requires out-of-state teachers to complete additional coursework to the full reciprocity category. We have had chronic teacher shortages in some fields for decades. Ever try to hire a talented math teacher to teach in inner city Milwaukee? It’s almost impossible.

But, for all of the media hype regarding today’s teacher shortages, recall that we also have a long history of chronic teacher surpluses. The surpluses in some fields were staggering. Dozens of new teachers would apply for one elementary school teaching position or a middle school social studies vacancy.

Why was there such a mismatch between supply and demand? For decades, K-12 teaching was treated as one labor market — the market for a generic teacher. The old step-and-lane salary schedule long favored by teachers unions compensated all teachers in the same way (years of teaching experience and level of education) as if they all had the same skill set and classroom ability and faced the same opportunity cost (the next best job choice).

For example, the next best job choice for an early childhood teacher might be working in a day-care center. The next best choice for a high school chemistry teacher might be working at a chemical company. Clearly these are different labor markets.

The step-and-lane salary schedule was insensitive to the real labor market conditions for teachers and, over the years, did enormous damage. Prospective teachers spent years completing certification programs only to discover there were no jobs. Schools of education had high enrollments and became “cash cows” for universities. In the meantime, potential math and science teachers just walked away. Hardly anyone had an incentive to rock the boat.

Only recently has the labor market for teachers begun to function somewhat normally. Wisconsin’s Act 10, enacted in 2011, created a labor market for teachers that was much freer than what existed before. Younger teachers and those with skill sets that are in high demand are receiving improved compensation, benefits and respect. Valued teachers are being “re-recruited.”

Supply and demand

Let’s examine the supply and demand situation today. In January 2018, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in the School of Education at UW-Madison released a rigorous working paper titled Supply and Demand for Public School Teachers in Wisconsin. The report is nuanced, but some generalizations stand out.

The authors state that there is no statewide teacher shortage. They conclude: “The supply data show a net excess of applicants across nearly all positions.” That said, teacher preferences are important, and some districts receive more applications than others. Districts with trouble attracting sufficient applicants have increased the use of emergency credentialing. While teachers tend to relocate in the same region of the state, there has been an increase in inter-district teacher mobility. Finally, the labor market is complex (but not unexpected). For example, there is:

A shortage in areas such as bilingual education, special education (visual, emotional), world languages and tech ed.

A more consistent supply in areas such as science, special education (speech, deaf) reading, math, English and health.

A surplus in areas including childhood, music, special education (general), elementary and middle school education, physical education and social studies.

AB 195 may help to alleviate some of the supply concerns. Now would be a good time to rethink Wisconsin’s entire teacher certification process. To become a teacher here, an individual has to comply with what many Wisconsin school leaders describe as the onerous provisions of licensure rules called PI 34.

Fifteen years after DPI approved PI 34, the regulations have yet to earn national respect. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), Wisconsin has flat-lined in its teacher preparation policies. In its 2017 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, Wisconsin received an overall grade of D+. Wisconsin earned a D in 2009, a D in 2011, a D+ in 2013 and a D in 2015.

Many of our neighboring states are ranked somewhat better. Minnesota gets an overall grade of C, Illinois a C+, Iowa a D+ and Michigan a C. Thus, making it easier for teachers from other states to become licensed in Wisconsin is a good thing, but it is unlikely to substantially improve the quality of Wisconsin’s teacher corps without additional reform .

Our recommendations in Government’s Love for Licensure included:
fine-tuning salary scales to reflect the reality of multiple teacher labor markets
the repeal and replacement of PI 34
allowing districts to develop their own teacher licensure programs, and
authorizing existing charter schools to hire teachers based solely on candidates’ experience and their ability to teach.

AB 195 suggests that there is bipartisan interest in common-sense teacher licensure reforms that make it easier to attract high-quality teachers to Wisconsin’s traditional public and charter schools. Now would be a good time to finally take action and reform PI 34.

Mark Schug, Ph.D., is an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Scott Niederjohn, Ph.D., is dean of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Lakeland University in Sheboygan.


Study links positive messages about middle school to better grades, behavior

August 12, 2019   |   By Linda Jacobson

From Education Dive:

Dive Brief:

  • Sixth-grade writing and reflecting exercises that communicate how it’s normal for new middle schoolers to be anxious and worry they don’t fit in — and that these feelings are temporary — can contribute to better attendance, behavior and academic performance, according to a new study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Led by Geoffrey Borman from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and conducted in all middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District, the intervention involved students reading messages that communicated how every new 6th-grader experiences uncertainty about academics and social acceptance, and that adults and other students are available to help. The students also wrote responses to what they read.
  • Compared to those students in the control group — whose assignments focused on more general topics — the children in the treatment group had 545 fewer absences (increasing attendance by 12%), 507 fewer behavioral referrals (reducing disciplinary incidents by 34%), and 67 fewer D or F grades (reducing failing grades by 18%) by the end of the school year.

Dive Insight:

The transition into middle school is often marked by a decline in academic achievement that is further complicated by the physical and social-emotional changes children experience in early adolescence. That’s one reason why the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, for example, has launched an initiativeto revamp a pilot group of nine middle schools with features meant to support student engagement and mental health. The district has seen a trend of families choosing K-8 schools over middle schools. 

Efforts are also increasing to reframe the middle grades as a time of opportunity for youth rather than one of increased risk. And earlier this month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report that includes recommendations for the education, health, child welfare and juvenile justice systems related to reducing inequities during the adolescent years that can lead to poor outcomes.

Increasing students’ sense of belonging in school at this critical time can reduce the chances that they experience academic and discipline problems, Borman and his coauthors write. Another recent study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that the more students report feeling a part of the school community, the less likely they are to report that they have bullied someone. The authors recommend school clubs for students with particular interests and emphasize the role parents play in fostering family belongingness as well.

Borman and coauthors write that their theory on “targeted reappraisal messages” was drawn from similar research conducted at the college level. But they conclude that for middle schools, the intervention is a “highly cost-effective and scalable approach.” 


Easing the middle school transition

August 11, 2019   |   By Tribune News Service

From Guam Daily Post:

A new study from education researchers has come up with a deceptively simple, yet surprisingly effective way of helping students cope with the infamously stressful transition from elementary to middle school:

Let them hear from other kids that, sure, middle school is tough. But it gets better, help is out there, and they can do this.

What could that possibly accomplish? Apparently a lot.

The intervention devised by education researchers with the University of Wisconsin at Madison and administered to over 1,300 sixth graders in all 11 of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s middle schools correlated with better grades, higher attention and fewer behavioral problems compared to students who didn’t get the intervention.

And it was cheap. The average cost was $1.35 per student.

“We were attempting what psychologists would call normalizing the adversity that students experience in the beginning of middle school,” explained lead study author Geoffrey D. Borman, a professor of educational leadership at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

For those who don’t remember, middle school for many youngsters can be a scary place. Students go from having one teacher to several. Often they are going to a new school further from home than their elementary school. The tests can seem harder, with higher stakes. They may have to make new friends. And on top of all that, they are going through the profound developmental, psychological and physical changes that go with approaching adolescence.

The Wisconsin researchers set out to create an intervention, in the form of reading and writing exercises, that would seek to address and allay some of the stress of the middle school experience.

In a randomized trial, about half of the students were given two reading and writing exercises at the start of their first year of middle school on a relatively neutral topic.

The other half got the intervention exercises – one in the first couple weeks of school, the second about a month later. Written as if they were from students who had already completed their first year of middle school with the help of student focus groups, the intervention materials convey that the angst students may be feeling is normal and temporary, that there are teachers and others willing to help in their new school, and that in time they will fit in and find friends. The students were also given writing assignments to help reinforce the reassuring messages in the reading materials they were given.

The intervention exercises were personalized to each school; the messages were attributed to theoretical students from the study participant’s school.

At the end of the school year, the researchers surveyed the students on their attitudes and their experience of their first year. They also collected data from schools about the student. The intervention students reported a greater sense of belonging, less test anxiety, and more trust in their teachers.

There were also more tangible results. The students in the treatment group had 34% fewer behavioral referrals, 12% fewer absences, and 18% fewer D and F grades than the students who got the neutral assignments.

“One reason I believe these exercises are so effective is that the messaging is not coming from an adult,” said Borman. “And it’s not advice – telling students you should do this, you should do that. Instead it’s providing an example of what other kids went through, how they navigated this transition and what turned out to be successful for them. Kids tend to take advice and ideas from their peers more readily than from an adult.”

The findings from the study were published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the journal of the National Academy of Science. Borman said they had similar results with students in an Arizona school district. He said his team is looking for other districts willing to test out their approach.

The results of the study could send a message to education administrators and leaders, said Borman.

“Middle school has a rather notorious reputation as a difficult place for these emerging adolescents,” Borman said. “I think we have to be more sensitive and more caring for these transitioning middle school students and understand what they’re going through.”


What I Learned When I Studied Six Chicago Schools Transforming to Personalized Learning Environments

August 11, 2019   |   By Rich Halverson

From: Getting Smart 

Steve McWade is a believer in personalized learning. For years, McWade has worked to design compelling learning experiences to meet the needs of all students in his Chicago Public School classrooms. “The thing I struggled with the most, before personalized learning, was that you teach to the middle. […] With personalized learning, if you have 34 kids, you have 34 different ways to reach kids.” Personalized learning has completely changed McWade’s teaching, as well as the teaching and learning of thousands of teachers and students across the world. What is personalized learning, and how does it differ from traditional schooling?

In 2014, McWade’s school became involved with the LEAP Innovations, a Chicago-based reform partner committed to developing personalized learning in schools. Over the past several years, LEAP has created a thriving network of 140 schools committed to personalizing learning for over 40,000 students. In 2016, LEAP invited my colleagues and I at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to conduct an in-depth study on how personalized learning was actually being implemented in six urban LEAP schools. We heard many stories, like that of McWade, that confirmed the power of personalized learning to redefine the everyday practices of teaching and learning.

In previous work, we documented how personalized learning is experienced by educators and students in public schools. We found that personalized learning transforms teaching and learning in schools to address the needs and interests of each learner. It is a whole-school reform strategy that redefines the role of students, educators, and the learning environment. Students learn to take ownership of their own learning. They set ambitious goals, participate in group activities that matter for their peers, and learn to design activities that can provide evidence of their achievements. Instead of passively enduring teaching, personalized learning students work with teachers to co-design their own schooling. Once students successfully make the switch to personalized learning, it is difficult for them to settle once again into the recipient role expected in traditional learning environments.

The role of the educator is also transformed in personalized learning. Teachers continue to deliver content, but the focus of instruction shifts toward addressing individual learners’ needs and interests. Personalized learning educators use customized data to diagnose where students need more help. They work with students to create individualized learning plans that guide day-to-day activities, and they adopt competency-based assessment models that invite students to demonstrate what they know. They create bridges to meaningful partnerships and resources outside the school. At the heart is the learning relationship that teachers need to build with every student. Personalized learning educators make the time to learn student interests, skills, and aspirations. Regular meetings with each student help teachers to personalize learning plans and learners to demonstrate what they have accomplished. These meetings evolve into long-term relationships, forming the core of a partnership where teachers care about the success of every student.

New technologies also play a central role in personalized learning. Coordinating the work of 34 separate learning plans would overwhelm any teacher. Fortunately, many teachers have ready access to tools such as the Google Classroom Suite to simplify managing student collaboration, project-based learning, record-keeping, and homework. Schools also use technologies for behavior management, special education, course building, gaming, and data analysis. Personalized learning educators typically assemble their own tool ecologies based on the needs and interests of students and teachers. These kinds of technologies help to shift the potentially overwhelming information and management load for instruction that comes with personalizing learning for all students.

Personalized learning can look different in every school. Successful personalized learning schools start with the pedagogical shift toward learner agency and teacher facilitation, then provide the 1:1 technologies and learning environments to support the new practices. Leading for personalized learning requires coordinating planning and professional development to put student needs and interests at the heart of the schooling process.

We found that LEAP acted as the catalyst for sparking personalized learning across its network. Each of the six Chicago schools studied were actively engaged in changing pedagogies to support personalized learning. Each school was building learning plans with students, and was moving toward competency-based assessments. Each school had adopted a variety of technologies for teaching and for learning, and had changed the classroom layout to support collaborative learning stations. We found that the schools were experimenting with new approaches to interest-based learning as well. Innovations such as “Genius Hours” and “Flex Fridays” made time for student-led project-based learning. The excitement around personalized learning has created vibrant school communities where educators and students are enthusiastic to try new ideas.

We also found promising patterns in student outcomes in that achievement scores were improving in LEAP schools in math and reading. These early findings invite further research to determine which factors of personalized learning practice are responsible for improving learning and engaging learners. Tara Shaun Cain, the principal at McWade’s school, echoed his excitement about the effects of personalized learning. “We use personalized learning to really promote student ownership. […] You’ll have kids who are pushing each other’s thinking, requiring each other to justify their answers.” The promise of personalizing learning is to shift the role of learners from passive recipients of information to agents of their own learning. Defining schooling in terms of learners has powerful implications for equity in education. As McWade notes, “All kids can do this. Kids from any school, from any community can do this. Personalized learning is the way all education needs to be.”

Rich Halverson is the Co-Director of the Wisconsin Collaborative Education Research Network and a professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education. Follow him on Twitter @aporiatwo


Positive messaging early in the school year can help sixth graders transition to middle school

July 31, 2019   |   By Negassi Tesfamichael

From the Capital Times:

Though middle school is often regarded as an awful, cringe-worthy experience for adolescents, it doesn't have to always be difficult, according to researchers. 

A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that sixth-grade students who received clear, positive messaging early in the school year performed better and could better manage fears and anxieties created by the transition to middle school. 

"There's usually a perfect storm, or a constellation of events all happening at once in a young adolescent's life when they get to middle school," Geoffrey Borman, a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher and the lead author of the paper, said in an interview. "We usually notice a very pronounced decline in student performance when they hit middle school, and it usually has something to do with the transition to a new school that is much more complicated."

Borman's research team conducted a double-blind field experiment that involved just over 1,300 sixth-grade students from all 11 middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District. Students who participated in two 15-minute reading and writing activities in the classroom that focused on the normal and temporary fears of fitting in at a new school experienced several positive effects, including:

  • a 34% decrease in disciplinary incidents
  • a 12% increase in attendance
  • a 18% decrease in the number of failing grades

Though other, more extensive interventions such as peer mentoring programs can be used to achieve similar goals, Borman said the classroom activities could be a powerful tool that schools across the country can use, particularly given how cost-effective the intervention is.

"We've found that if we're able to give students these positive messages toward the beginning of the school year before a potentially downward spiral of bad events like getting a bad grade or feeling left out of the lunchroom, we can help kids more effectively deal with the social and academic adversities that just about everyone is going to experience," Borman said. 

Borman, who works in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison's School of Education, is working on replicating the studies in two other school districts. He said proactive approaches like those in the field experiment haven't previously been developed thoroughly by researchers. The ease of bringing simple activities like this to scale should make for an appealing intervention tool for districts, he said.

"If we really focus on how this is a normal experience that all kids go through, with enough time and support from classmates and other teachers, students will find their place ultimately and feel like they belong and fit in," Borman said. "In fact, a very important part of this intervention is that in a way, it's like an inoculation against the psychological adversity that kids are going to be experiencing in the first weeks and months of school."


These Academics Spent $1.35 To Make Middle School Less Awful. Here’s How.

July 31, 2019   |   By Belinda Luscombe

From Time magazine

Middle school, as documented in such educational opuses as Eighth Grade and School of Rock, is legendarily awful. Students who have done well in elementary school often stumble, become isolated and fall behind. But Geoffrey Borman, a professor at University of Wisconsin Madison who specializes in education policy and analysis, and his team, think they may have found an answer.

In a study, the results of which came out on July 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they gave more than 1,000 Wisconsin students two 15-minute writing exercises, one at the start of school and one a month later. They were asked to reflect on a survey, with quotes lifted loosely from former students, about struggling in the early months of school, feeling as though they didn’t belong, and reaching out for help from teachers and other students. The first assignment focused on the management of academic tasks and the second on navigating new social groups.

Their findings were encouraging, and thanks to the long term nature of academic publishing have already been replicated in Arizona. Education Week reports of the follow up: “As in a prior study of Wisconsin 6th graders, the 7th graders who participated in the writing exercise had fewer failing grades and better overall GPAs at the end of the school year than their peers who had not participated. The researchers found no changes in attendance or discipline, but did find that students who had participated in the writing test valued “doing well in school” more at the end of the year than their peers.”

We asked Borman to explain his research:

What makes middle school so difficult? 
The transition to middle school is the perfect storm! As children enter adolescence, the developmental changes that they experience are more profound than at any other time of life—outside of the dramatic changes from birth to two years old. Piled on top of this significant developmental transition, we require about 90% of our students in the U.S. to make a physical move from the familiar neighborhood elementary school to a larger, distant, and more complex place called middle school or junior high school. Research has shown that students who remain in a K-8 school fare significantly better academically than their counterparts who transition to a middle school at grade 6 or 7. The physical transition to the more complicated and unfamiliar middle school is stressful and difficult and most students suffer socially, psychologically and academically.

Middle schools are not usually well-equipped to help students make this transition. In fact, many things about middle school actually make things worse. For instance, during each year of grade school, most students are under the care of one caring teacher, but middle schools demand that students must now develop new relationships with several teachers who have different personalities and who assign grades that suddenly seem to mean much more. Middle-school students must also negotiate new relationships with larger networks of students, many of whom they have never met, and many of whom appear quite a bit older and imposing. Early adolescents become increasingly aware of how others, especially their classmates, see them and they are desperately trying to fit in. A bad day in the lunchroom or a bad grade on an assignment can cause them to question whether they are going to turn out to be popular or successful students who fit in both socially and academically.

Typically most parents and educators start to worry about alienation in high school. Why did you choose to focus on middle school? 
The process of alienation and disengagement from school often takes root at the beginning of middle school. In fact, many school districts now have “early warning” systems that help predict which students may be at risk for dropping out of high school. Those kids who begin to receive bad grades, have higher rates of absences, and who get into trouble during the early years of middle school are typically those who will eventually drop out of high school. We wanted to take a more proactive stance to help prevent this process of disengagement from happening in the first place.

Your study suggests that what middle schoolers really need is a sense of belonging. How did your intervention foster that? 
Our intervention teaches students two important lessons. First, the exercises convey that all students experience some difficulty, both socially and academically, at the beginning of middle school. After a little while, though, things get better. When students read our exercises, they learn that there is not something wrong with them. Instead, they learn that the transition is a shared experience that is initially difficult for just about everyone. Like jumping into a cool swimming pool on a hot day, the experience is initially shocking and uncomfortable, but after a little while we get used to it and the cool water actually feels pretty good.

Second, the exercises tell students that help is available from teachers and other adults at the school. Usually, relationships between teachers and students become more distant during middle school. However, the students who received the intervention reported trust in their teachers, that they liked school, were not as nervous about big tests, and that, ultimately, felt like they fit in. These more positive attitudes about school help students worry less, which helps them devote more cognitive and psychological resources to doing well in school. Their increased sense of fitting in also led to fewer absences from school and fewer instances of acting out. Over time, these shifts in student beliefs and behaviors improve academic performance, which then reinforce students’ positive beliefs. Rather than the all-too-often downward spiral students experience at the onset of middle school, the intervention sets in motion some positive momentum that helps kids feel like they do belong.

What differences did your intervention make?
The students who received our intervention missed fewer days of school, got sent to the principal’s office less often, and got better grades. In addition, our student surveys showed that students had better relationships with their teachers and classmates, were less anxious about big tests, and were more motivated to do well in their classes. These more positive attitudes helped students attend school more regularly, get in trouble at school less often, and ultimately get better grades.

What can schools learn from your study?
Many good teachers already do many of the things that our intervention is designed to convey to kids. For example, a good teacher can provide messages of reassurance and offer help to those students who are struggling socially or academically. However, teenagers are often more attentive to the advice of a peer and, therefore, we believe that the messages that are delivered by our intervention are powerful because they come from the stories of other students.

Schools might also arrange peer mentoring programs. These programs, delivered by student peers who successfully navigated the middle-school transition, might deliver messages that are similar to those found in our intervention materials.

How much would it cost for schools to implement your practices?
Researchers from Columbia University recently estimated the costs of six popular programs targeting students’ social-emotional learning (SEL). On average, these interventions cost $581 per student. One of these six interventions was being used in the school district we studied. The students who received our intervention, in addition to the SEL program, outperformed the control group students, who received only the SEL program. The value-added of our intervention on students’ outcomes was achieved at a cost of about $1.35 per student. This cost factors in the printing costs for the materials and for the time that it takes teachers to administer the two 15-minute activities.

Anything parents can learn from your study?
First, if the option is available, parents may enroll their students in K-8 schools and avoid the difficult middle-school transition altogether! Second, parents should encourage their middle-schoolers to develop positive relationships with their teachers and to ask them for help when needed. One very significant impact of our intervention was that students felt more comfortable with, and trusting of, their teachers. Third, parents can help their children understand that teachers are caring adults who will help if needed. Finally, though middle-schoolers are beginning to become more independent, parents should reassure their children that they are there for them when things get difficult.


Study Shows Power of Refocusing Student Stress in Middle School Transition

July 30, 2019

From Phys.org:

A new study by education researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that proactively addressing students' anxieties with clear and cost-effective messaging early in the school year can lead to a lasting record of higher grades, better attendance, and fewer behavioral problems for sixth graders embarking on their stressful first year of middle school.

Published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal of the National Academy of Sciences, the featured six-page paper by lead author Geoffrey D. Borman traces those benefits to a difference-making change in attitude and positive well-being reported by students after two brief, reassuring classroom activities, known as interventions.

Seasoned with peer success stories and designed to boost students' sense of belonging, the interventions, in the form of reading and writing exercises, are targeted to ease sixth graders' fears about "fitting in" at their new schools with a message that the angst they're feeling is "both temporary and normal," the paper says, and that help is available from school staff.

"It's saying, 'There's not something unusual or different about you, but this is just an issue that is difficult for a lot of kids when they make the transition to middle school,'" Borman says. "And that there's support available, both academically and socially. You'll make new friends, you'll discover that you fit in, and teachers and other adults in the building are there to help you."

Borman, a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW?Madison and scientist in the School of Education's Wisconsin Center for Education Research, tested his hypothesis in a double-blind, randomized field trial involving 1,304 sixth graders at all 11 middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District, a diverse, K-12 system in the state's second biggest city.

Borman's research team found that, compared to a control group of sixth graders that received a neutral reading and writing activity, those in the treatment group experienced post-intervention effects that:

  • reduced disciplinary incidents by 34 percent.
  • increased attendance by 12 percent.
  • reduced the number of failing grades by 18 percent.

The paper spells out the pathway that led to these impacts, as borne out in school records and students' completion of surveys measuring their attitudes pre- and post-intervention.

"The kids internalized this message, they worried about tests less, they trusted their teachers more and sought help from adults," Borman says. "They also felt like they belonged in the school more, and because they felt more comfortable, they didn't act out as often and they showed up more. All of those things explain how this intervention (finally) affects kids' grades."

Borman and his team developed the intervention for the study based on prior work by social psychologists and brainstorming internally about what sixth graders need to know to feel better about fitting in socially and measuring up academically in middle school. They also tested the wording and presentation of their proposed messaging with student focus groups.

Existing literature makes clear that the transition to middle school is a high stakes one, Borman notes, with a marked and lasting decline in teens' academic performance often beginning with a rocky start in middle school. Educators know that the upheavals of moving to a new school are a bad fit with the increased self-awareness, heightened sensitivity to social acceptance and other physical and psychological changes that young teens already are experiencing.

Surprisingly, though, few interventions have been developed to address it, Borman says.

"This is a near-universal experience of young adolescents," he notes. "They're forced to make this transition from the more comfortable and familiar neighborhood elementary school, where they were under the care of mainly one teacher, to this much larger school with a larger number of teachers with whom they have to interact and new classmates from around the city."

That makes his team's proposed intervention all the more potentially valuable, especially given its low price tag—mainly just printing costs—and its ability to be scaled up districtwide easily.

"Rather than wholesale changes, or closing down all the middle schools, this intervention is a productive, targeted way to help kids more effectively and productively negotiate this transition, and for only a couple of dollars per kid," says Borman, who now is working on replication studies in two other districts. "Schools could easily replicate this kind of intervention across the country."


Power of Refocusing Student Stress in Middle School Transition

July 30, 2019

From ScienceDaily:

A new study by education researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that proactively addressing students' anxieties with clear and cost-effective messaging early in the school year can lead to a lasting record of higher grades, better attendance, and fewer behavioral problems for sixth graders embarking on their stressful first year of middle school.

Published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal of the National Academy of Sciences, the featured six-page paper by lead author Geoffrey D. Borman traces those benefits to a difference-making change in attitude and positive well-being reported by students after two brief, reassuring classroom activities, known as interventions.

Seasoned with peer success stories and designed to boost students' sense of belonging, the interventions, in the form of reading and writing exercises, are targeted to ease sixth graders' fears about "fitting in" at their new schools with a message that the angst they're feeling is "both temporary and normal," the paper says, and that help is available from school staff.

"It's saying, 'There's not something unusual or different about you, but this is just an issue that is difficult for a lot of kids when they make the transition to middle school,'" Borman says. "And that there's support available, both academically and socially. You'll make new friends, you'll discover that you fit in, and teachers and other adults in the building are there to help you."

Borman, a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW?Madison and scientist in the School of Education's Wisconsin Center for Education Research, tested his hypothesis in a double-blind, randomized field trial involving 1,304 sixth graders at all 11 middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District, a diverse, K-12 system in the state's second biggest city.

Borman's research team found that, compared to a control group of sixth graders that received a neutral reading and writing activity, those in the treatment group experienced post-intervention effects that:

  • reduced disciplinary incidents by 34 percent.
  • increased attendance by 12 percent.
  • reduced the number of failing grades by 18 percent.

The paper spells out the pathway that led to these impacts, as borne out in school records and students' completion of surveys measuring their attitudes pre- and post-intervention.

"The kids internalized this message, they worried about tests less, they trusted their teachers more and sought help from adults," Borman says. "They also felt like they belonged in the school more, and because they felt more comfortable, they didn't act out as often and they showed up more. All of those things explain how this intervention (finally) affects kids' grades."

Borman and his team developed the intervention for the study based on prior work by social psychologists and brainstorming internally about what sixth graders need to know to feel better about fitting in socially and measuring up academically in middle school. They also tested the wording and presentation of their proposed messaging with student focus groups.

Existing literature makes clear that the transition to middle school is a high stakes one, Borman notes, with a marked and lasting decline in teens' academic performance often beginning with a rocky start in middle school. Educators know that the upheavals of moving to a new school are a bad fit with the increased self-awareness, heightened sensitivity to social acceptance and other physical and psychological changes that young teens already are experiencing.

Surprisingly, though, few interventions have been developed to address it, Borman says.

"This is a near-universal experience of young adolescents," he notes. "They're forced to make this transition from the more comfortable and familiar neighborhood elementary school, where they were under the care of mainly one teacher, to this much larger school with a larger number of teachers with whom they have to interact and new classmates from around the city."

That makes his team's proposed intervention all the more potentially valuable, especially given its low price tag -- mainly just printing costs -- and its ability to be scaled up districtwide easily.

"Rather than wholesale changes, or closing down all the middle schools, this intervention is a productive, targeted way to help kids more effectively and productively negotiate this transition, and for only a couple of dollars per kid," says Borman, who now is working on replication studies in two other districts. "Schools could easily replicate this kind of intervention across the country."

Borman's paper is titled "Reappraising Academic and Social Adversity Improves Middle-School Students' Academic Achievement, Behavior, and Well-Being." Paper co-authors are Christopher Rozek, Jaymes Pyne and Paul Hanselman.


Fear of a Black Mermaid

July 9, 2019   |   By Ellen McGirt

From Fortune:

It should have been a simple dream come true. 

Nineteen-year-old Halle Bailey, one half of the sister singing sensation Chloe x Halle, has been tapped to play the lead in the live action version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

“After an extensive search it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice— all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role,” said director Robert Marshall, Jr. in a statement to NBC News.

But Bailey is black. So the seaweed hit the fan.

“ARIEL IS WHITE WITH RED HAIR!” said the cultural police in a never-ending stream of online complaints, some fairly racist. 

Bailey had plenty of defenders, including entertainment heavyweights Kerry Washington, Chrissy Teigen, Zendaya, and Ariana Grande. Jodie Benson, the original voice of Ariel in the 1989 animated film was asked about it on stage at the pop culture mega-convening, Florida Supercon. “We need to be storytellers,” Benson said. “And no matter what we look like on the outside, no matter our race, our nation, the color of our skin, our dialect, whether I’m tall or thin, whether I’m overweight or underweight, or my hair is whatever color, we really need to tell the story.”

Indeed we do.

The idea that a fictional mermaid should forever remain a white girl because Hans Christian Anderson, her creator, was white, and Disney presented her as white in the past, is a tough one to defend in the modern age.

“Brandy [who played Cinderella in a 1997 film version] walked so Halle Bailey could swim,” tweeted entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon.

But just because the outrage doesn’t track, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t deeply felt.

There are more than just Euro-centric notions of beauty at play, though they remain powerful and difficult to dismantle. It’s also that white people can experience anguish, even unconsciously so, when they lose the societal benefits attached to whiteness.

An anti-bias facilitator and educator named Val Brown posted some research on Twitter that helps illuminate this phenomenon. She's a treasure, by the way. Her online discussion forum for educators #ClearTheAir, regularly tackles thorny topics on inclusion. Follow her here.)

The paper was by Gloria Ladson-Billings, a pedagogical theorist, researcher, and instructor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison called Just What Is Critical Race Theory and What’s It Doing In a Nice Field Like Education?

In the piece, Ladson-Billings reviews existing research on race theory, in the hopes of identifying information that would accelerate racial reform in her field of education. The need for the work was affirmed during the early days of her quest; she describes experiencing marked hostility when presenting working versions of this paper in peer-reviewed settings. Why are you talking only about race? What about gender? That sort of thing. 

While the entire paper is worth your time, Brown flags one section as particularly instructive. Ladson-Billings cites a study which asked white college students whether they believed things were better for Blacks in this day and age. The answers were mostly yes. Then the students were asked if they would be willing to change place with African Americans. None would. And then this: 

"When asked what amount of compensation they would seek if they were forced to "become Black,’ the students ‘seemed to feel that it would not be out of place to ask for $50 million, or $1 million for each coming Black year.’"

An interesting twist in the fictional case for reparations.

“According to [the study]: And this calculation conveys, as well as anything, the value that white people place on their own skins. Indeed, to be white is to possess a gift whose value can be appreciated only after it has been taken away."

Suddenly white Ariel isn’t just a mermaid anymore.

The debate about the Disney production continues to rage on, though sadly, without critical race theory context. The closest we may get comes from Freeform, Disney’s teen channel, who weighed in with an intelligent response on social media. 

“Yes. The original author of 'The Little Mermaid' was Danish,” they sighed on Instagram. “Ariel...is a mermaid.” You know, a fictional creature. “But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish. Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black.” They even had some smart things to say about the red hair, too.

But ultimately, they put the responsibility back where it belongs, though not in the same way that Ladson-Billings might.

“So after all this is said and done, and you can’t get past the idea that choosing the incredible, sensational, highly-talented, gorgeous Halle Bailey is anything other than INSPIRED casting that it is because 'she doesn’t look like the cartoon one,’ oh boy do I have news for you… about you.”


Study Shows Mixed Test Results For Technology In Classrooms

June 17, 2019   |   By Shamane Mills

Broadcast by Wisconsin Public Radio
 

Schools in Wisconsin and across the country have invested a lot in technology, and new research is questioning how effective it is in teaching kids to read.

A study done by a think-tank that examines learning in a digital age found Wisconsin fourth graders who used tablets in most classes had reading scores nine points lower on a standardized test than those who didn’t use tablets in class.

"Nine points is something equivalent to a year’s worth of learning so it’s almost one grade level," said Helen Lee Bouygues, founder of the Reboot Foundation which did the study using 2017 data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, often referred to as the "nation’s report card."

The negative effect of technology on learning wasn’t as strong with eighth graders and overall results were mixed. The NAEP tests reading and math.

Wisconsin school officials note the data on the amount of screen time in the classroom is self-reported by students whose memory may be taxed after hours of testing. They also make the point that the study focuses on how much computers are used, not how rigorous it was.

"What we really need to think about in terms of technology use is quality not really the quantity of use," said John Johnson, director for literacy and mathematics for the state Department of Public Instruction.

But there’s not a lot of research on what technology works best in the classroom, said Rich Halverson, who wrote the book, "Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America."

"Learning technologies are in a time of growth now. Twenty years from now we’ll have much better tools to support learners. So right now there’s a lot of experimentation," explained Halverson, a professor of education leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The fact that Wisconsin fourth graders using more technology scored lower on the NAEP than those who had less technology in the classroom doesn’t surprise Halverson because he said often students who struggle in school are assigned technologies designed to help with remedial instruction. The study did not control for that factor.

And while Bouygues said it did control for outside variables like wealth and students’ prior performance, the study doesn't show technology actually caused changes in student learning.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2019, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.


Low Internship Participation Indicates A Need For Change

June 14, 2019   |   By Jackson Schroeder

From The University Network:

In today’s rapidly evolving job market, having internship experience can give young job-seekers a tremendous leg up. In fact, 57.5 percent of new grads who were offered a job after graduation had at least one internship on their resume.

But internships aren’t all created equally. 

While some companies adequately prepare interns for the working world by treating them like entry-level employees and paying them a fair wage, other companies waste interns’ valuable time by making them full-time coffee runners, transcribers, or photocopiers. 

Largely due to insufficient pay and a lack of worthwhile opportunities, today’s college students are having a hard time pursuing internships, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Many students can’t afford to give up their day job or sacrifice time that could be spent taking classes. 

The UW-Madison researchers polled 1,129 students at three diverse colleges in Wisconsin and South Carolina to find that only 29 percent of them had completed a legitimate internship in the past year. 

What’s most concerning, however, is that while 64 percent of those without internships said they wanted one, they couldn’t pursue an internship because of the barriers. They either had to work, the internship didn’t offer enough pay, or there weren’t enough quality internships available near them in their field of study.

Demographics also play a role.

“We found that internship participation varied substantially across different student groups by race, academic enrollment status, academic programs, and different types of institutions,” said Zi Chen, an associate researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and co-author of the study. 

The barriers to pursuing an internship are especially restrictive for low-income students and first-generation college students. Women and students with high grade point averages, on the other hand, are the most likely to pursue internships, the study finds. However, the researchers have not yet discovered why. 

“There’s no direct or easy implication or recommendation we can attribute to this fact, other than to recognize [that] we need to think more deeply about how we’re setting internships up, who’s taking them and why,” Matthew T. Hora, a research scientist at WCER and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Why aren’t students with median or low GPAs taking them? Why aren’t more male students taking them?”

Internships must be improved and made widely available

Those who can afford to take a pay cut and find a quality, worthwhile internship have better odds of landing a job after college and kick-starting their professional careers. 

Unfortunately, there are many students who don’t have the financial means to work for cheap or free and risk not getting valuable work experience. 

Additionally, location plays a role, according to the study. A student attending college in New York City, for example, will likely have better odds of finding a quality, nearby internship than a student going to school in, say, Grand Forks, North Dakota. 

“We need to recognize internships simultaneously can be a positive, transformative experience for some students and a vehicle for reproducing inequality for others,” Hora said in a statement.

So, in an effort to encourage equitable access and to create rewarding, well-paying internships across the United States, the authors of this study created a “process-oriented model,” which they hope will be perused and considered by educators, employers, policymakers and others.

The model outlines factors that can affect student access to internship opportunities, such as demographics, employment status, choice of major, and more, explained Chen. It also outlines how location and labor markets can impact the structure and format of internships. 

By taking these things into consideration, the authors hope that educators, employers, and policymakers can turn all college internships into valuable learning experiences, through which students can increase their chances of being employed after graduation and earning a higher paycheck. 

“We’re just discovering that the reasons people take, or do not take, internships are really complex,” Hora said in a statement. “Researchers and others involved in studying or measuring the impacts of internships can use the new model in place of the simple yes/no question used in most surveys. For people involved in designing internships, it could be a way to think about both access issues and internship format,” 

Immediate effects 

Some colleges and universities are already considering these proposals. The University of Wisconsin-Parkside, one of the schools included in the study, has created a position for a full-time campus-wide internship coordinator. 

“We’re not at scale,” Deborah Ford, the chancellor at UW-Parkside, said in a statement. “This study really confirms that for us and shows we need to do a better job of making sure that our growing population of students of color take advantage of the same opportunities for internships as our white students.”

And at Madison College, which was also included in the study, Gretchen Rixie, the director of advising, career, and employment services, has acknowledged there is a need to place emphasis on internships.


UW-Madison Study Recommends Closer Look at ‘Long-Term English Learner’ Label

June 13, 2019   |   By Susan Endress

Published in Baraboo News Republic

After finding a wide difference across states, researchers at the University of Wisconsin are recommending more research be done on how students are classified as “long-term English learners” — those who haven’t reached proficiency in the language after at least five years in a U.S. school.

“The rates of the students — English learners who could be identified as LTELs using the rules that we did — were highly variable across the states,” said Narek Sahakyan, who worked on the nearly yearlong WIDA study. He is a researcher for WIDA, an educational consortium of states headquartered at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in Madison.

By examining 170,000 English learners’ data across 15 states from 2009-2015, the study found the population of long-term English learners ranged from 2% to 24%, according to a news release.

Part of that can be attributed to states varying on what threshold students have to meet before they are no longer considered English learners — but Sahakyan said the wide range persisted at the district level and across states even when grouping by reclassification criteria.

Though he declined to say whether Wisconsin was included in the study, he said the state has one of the highest thresholds for reclassifying students, meaning more would likely continue as ELs for longer compared to other states with a lower bar. States were included based on data availability and consent, Sahakyan said.

The researchers noted that being classified as a long-term English learner could prevent a student from getting into more advanced courses, limiting their learning opportunities and possibly impacting their future success. The label itself “can be stigmatizing to students,” the release said.

“The process of labeling a subgroup of students as LTELs can perpetuate the inequity we aim to address,” Sarah Ryan, director of research, policy and evaluation for WIDA, said in the release. “Yet, by not using this terminology, we might silence growing and necessary attention focused on meeting the needs of these students, which are often overlooked.”

Varying definitions of long-term English learners as determined by states and districts also means that the label could be applied to a student in one place but not another, Sahakyan wrote in an email.

“An EL student could be identified as either potentially proficient or an LTEL, depending on where she is going to school, or what other circumstances surround her, sometimes with little regard of her actual linguistic proficiency,” he wrote. “It is up to the public education system to figure out how to better serve these children better, and shining a light on the issue is but the first step in making this happen.”

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction doesn’t publicly release the number of long-term English learners in each school district, but it does report English learners. In 2009-10, Baraboo School District had 84 ELs and Portage had 69. By the last year the researchers examined, Baraboo dipped to 67 English learners and Portage dropped to 40.

English learners are the fastest growing subgroup of K-12 students in the country, according to the UW-Madison researchers.

But, the study also found, they tend to be a mobile population. Many of the students whose data was studied stopped taking the test used to determine English learner status before reaching English proficiency, suggesting they may have moved out of the state or country.

Another key finding showed what Sahakyan referred to as “a striking overlap” between students with individualized education programs — usually due to a learning or cognitive disability — and those who could be long-term English learners, complicating their needs from schools.

DPI data reflects an academic achievement gap between English learner students and non-English learner students. Sahakyan noted the difficulty of measuring an improvement in that gap when the cohort is “ever-changing” — a student who becomes proficient, by definition, would no longer be included in a district’s reported English learner population.

“While the reasons for the existence and persistence of these gaps are complex, deeply-rooted, and in some cases misunderstood, there is ample evidence to suggest that American schools are not meeting the needs of many English Learner students,” he wrote. “The presence of high rates of Long-term English learners, who are among the most vulnerable of this already at-risk student population, is perhaps the most tangible symptom of a defunct educational system.”


Study on Barriers for Student Internships

June 11, 2019   |   By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf

From Inside Higher Ed

A new report out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison shows that students have trouble pursuing internships because they’re preoccupied with work or had too heavy of a course load.

Researchers at the university surveyed more than 1,000 students at three anonymous institutions. About 500 of the students answered questions about what barriers prevented them from taking internships. About 58 percent of them said that in lieu of an internship, they had to work at a current job, and nearly 52 percent said that they had too much work in their classes.

The researchers stated in their paper that universities need to work on restructuring internship programs to make them more accessible.


OPINION: Is This Minority Group Too Small to Have a Voice on Campus?

June 6, 2019   |   By Matthew Wolfgram, Bailey Smolarek

Published by The Hechinger Report

Can members of the ethnic minority that comprises the largest Asian-American group in Wisconsin feel truly included on the state’s flagship campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison?

Perhaps. But participants in our study, “Our HMoob American College Paj Ntaub,” say they do not feel that way yet.

Our study documents some of the ways that the historical processes of colonization and displacement are reproduced in the United States, specifically through the education system.

On the surface, the purpose of higher education is to support all students in their growth academically, socially and economically. Unfortunately, minoritized students, such as HMoob Americans (commonly spelled “Hmong Americans”), often experience marginalization and exclusion at their institutions of higher education.

Related: How one little-known minority group illustrates a looming problem for colleges

The Anglicized spelling of the HMoob ethnonym is “Hmong.” But our research team, comprised of HMoob-American college students and education researchers, uses the spelling “HMoob” to challenge the colonial history of this ethnic group that originated in southern China. The capitalization of the “m” is deliberate, to be inclusive of the linguistic and cultural diversity in HMoob communities, and we use “-oob” rather than “-ong” to follow the Hmong Romanized Popular Alphabet, which we feel best represents what HMoob people call themselves in their native tongue.

In the mid-19th century, the HMoob faced extreme political displacement that pushed them south into Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Burma. During the mid-1970s, they experienced a second forced migration to Thailand as refugees following the CIA’s covert operations in Laos and during the Vietnam War. Following their entry into refugee camps in Thailand, many HMoob refugees were resettled into third countries, including the United States. There are approximately 260,000 first- and second-generation HMoob Americans currently living in America; the three states with the largest populations are California (90,000), Minnesota (60,000) and Wisconsin (50,000).

While some may argue that this minoritized group isn’t large enough to warrant national attention, we contend that understanding the experiences of HMoob students in particular matters because their community’s history is also the U.S. history of violent and destructive military interventions in Southeast Asia and its subsequent refugee outcomes. Moreover, we argue that our work provides a case study of how public universities must do more — and better — to serve minoritized students who often come from communities with histories of marginalization and exclusion.

“White people have a place all over this campus … [but] I don’t think [UW] Madison is welcoming to any student of color … Do we have welcoming spaces? Yes. Welcoming people? Yes. But as a whole? No.” — a study participant

Our study examined the educational experiences of HMoob-American students, and found that their experiences are influenced and organized into spaces of belonging and exclusion, and that this geography of campus had consequences for students’ well-being, career development and educational attainment.

As one study participant put it: “White people have a place all over this campus … [but] I don’t think [UW] Madison is welcoming to any student of color … Do we have welcoming spaces? Yes. Welcoming people? Yes. But as a whole? No.” His words illustrate a major finding of our research.

Our findings are based on in-depth interviews and observations with approximately 10 percent of these students at UW-Madison, 27 participants total.

Our study used a community-based participatory action research framework, involving a collaboration between a group of HMoob-American student activists and their research mentors from the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research to develop and conduct this study.

Our future research will expand on our sample and focus more on how college experiences impact HMoob-American career trajectories — but our preliminary findings indicate some troubling patterns that we highlight in this piece.

Related: My family fled the Vietnam War, could I preserve their culture and my GPA?

Our study found a strong contradiction between the laudable values of inclusion and diversity, which public universities like UW-Madison foreground in their mission statements, and the marginalization, exclusion and invisibility that students of color experience in their daily lives on campus. UW-Madison strongly advocates for diversity and inclusion through its diversity frameworkthat, among other things, attempts to attract students of color to campus through the promise of the iconic “Badger Experience” — making friends in the dorms, attending Badger football games and spending nights at the union.

However, upon attending the university, the “Badger Experience” for so-called HMoob-American students does not match what is advertised. Rather, our research demonstrates that these students feel a sense of exclusion at UW-Madison. Participants described experiencing macro- and/or micro-aggressions on campus that related to the ways in which UW-Madison’s campus is racially segregated, both spatially and institutionally. Participants reported feeling unwelcome in certain schools, buildings and professional student organizations, many of which are viewed as emblematic of the “Badger Experience.” This finding has significant implications for the students’ academic majors, future career plans and professional social networks.

The HMoob American College Paj Ntaub research team

At UW-Madison, our student participants are seen as Asians by their peers and categorized by the university as a “targeted minority” under the sub-group of “Southeast Asians.” Many of our student participants reported feeling disappointed by the lack of knowledge on campus about the group’s culture and history, and upset by the ways that members of this minority group are portrayed within mainstream (non-ethnic studies) courses.

Participants explained that they are often made responsible for educating their peers and teachers on who this group is because many know very little or nothing about this group. When HMoob history or culture is included in mainstream courses, participants typically report that it is done in overly simplistic and/or offensive ways due to framing the group solely through the lens of U.S. Cold War history.

In contrast, the spaces that participants stated they felt most welcome were student support programs, race-specific student organizations and HMoob-specific classes. These classes included Asian-American ethnic studies courses that pertained to HMoob culture and history, as well as language courses.

These classes were seen as spaces of inclusion and belonging in which participants reported having positive experiences and developing an affirmative ethnic identity. We also found that the participants who had not taken any of these courses expressed an interest in taking them, but found it difficult to fit them into their schedules due to inflexibility in course requirements (e.g., some STEM majors). Despite participants’ high praise of HMoob studies courses, many also expressed disappointment in the limited number of courses offered and a desire for courses to be offered with greater consistency.

UW-Madison prides itself on being an inclusive and welcoming space for all students, as foregrounded in its mission statement and highlighted in the current diversity framework. Yet, our research demonstrates that these students remain institutionally invisible and face various forms of racism and racial segregation on campus. Therefore, we concur with other scholars who have suggested that the diversity framework emphasizing integration across racial and cultural lines overlooks racial inequities. While the diversity framework celebrates social differences, it does not adequately address the racial inequities faced by many of these students at UW-Madison.

Furthermore, our research supports the role of ethnic studies in education as a means to promote positive ethnic identities and cross-cultural awareness. Finally, this work highlights the possibilities of conducting community-based research with minoritized students as a way to address the needs of their communities, foster spaces of social justice and facilitate important discussions about race, racism, diversity and inclusion.

This story about HMoob-American students was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.

Matthew Wolfgram is senior researcher at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. He holds a Ph.D. in anthropology.

Bailey Smolarek is an associate researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and holds a Ph.D in curriculum and instruction.

All of the members of the Paj Ntaub research team (listed in alphabetical order) contributed to this article: Lena Lee, Pangzoo Lee, Bailey Smolarek, Myxee Thao, Kia Vang, MaiNeng Vang, Matthew Wolfgram, Choua Xiong, Odyssey Xiong, Pa Kou Xiong and Pheechai Xiong.


Teachers at the Table: Voice, Agency, and Advocacy in Educational Policymaking

June 3, 2019   |   By Julie Kallio, New Books Network

Published by New Books Network

Annalee Good, an evaluator and researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, joins us in this episode to discuss her recently published book, Teachers at the Table: Voice, Agency, and Advocacy in Educational Policymaking (Lexington Press, 2018). Our conversation begins with her own journey from teaching middle school social studies to studying teacher engagement in policy advocacy. This research is particularly timely (though of course always timely!) with the 2018 wave of teacher strikes across the United States and record numbers of teachers running for office.

Having teachers involved in policy advocacy is critical for policy quality and legitimacy, yet they often aren’t. Annalee’s book is a systematic inquiry into the institutional forces that make it hard for teachers to engage in policymaking, and she contrasts these barriers with the ways they do have a voice and agency. Her study focuses on mentor and intern teachers who participated in a policy-focused professional development program in West Virginia. Through her qualitative data analysis, contextualized with national surveys, the voices of the participating teachers come through, underscoring that teachers have more power and more expertise than they often perceive.

We close the episode hearing about the new work Annalee and Jerry are doing through the Wisconsin Education Policy, Outreach, and Practice group (WEPOP), which is dedicated to teacher-driven conversation about public policy. This group work runs summer policy 101 workshops with pre-service teachers, writes policy-in-practice briefs, and offers sessions at regional EdCamps. Find out more about their work and follow them on twitter @WEPOPwisc.

Listen to podcast here.