Equity and Social Justice

Faculty Contacts:

Today’s educators have a responsibility to prepare tomorrow’s adults to be productive, socially conscientious, and well-adjusted citizens in a global environment.

Empowering all children via education to reach their full potential has many benefits: greater life opportunities, enriched global intellectual climate, stronger socioeconomic fabric of states and nations, and cultivation of talents in all facets of society. Yet, by 2020, two-thirds of the world’s population and three-quarters of the global workforce will be comprised of disenfranchised and underprivileged populations.

Locally, Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the U.S. between low-income and non-low-income students. Universities have an important role to play in addressing the educational inequities that many children experience; that role includes identifying potential strategies for success, developing innovative solutions aimed at enhancing educational outcomes, and researching the results of implementation.

The Neag School of Education’s aim is:

(a) to contribute to the evidence base of sound educational policies, practices, and programs that optimize all students’ potential and
(b) to identify proven methods to promote educational equity and social justice.

Our applied research will identify how various strategies are used in the field and create resources to assist in replicating selected methods in curricula, policies, practices, and funding decisions in Connecticut and nationwide. Successful education of children and youth is a complex problem involving many areas of study– early childhood, child health, family studies, social work, urban studies, psychology, public policy, economics, and others. Faculty from all of our departments, particularly the new cadre of faculty hired for the Education Equity, Achievement, and Reform cluster as well as the Education Evaluation and Policy cluster, will join with faculty from other Schools and Colleges to develop a comprehensive approach and create metrics to assess education equity and student achievement in ways that promote a greater understanding of and ability to predict what influences achievement gaps. Identifying the factors and forces that contribute to these gaps will suggest key levers of change.

Strengths in Equity and Social Justice

  • More than 40 funded projects, for a total of more than $26.6 million in extramural funding in the past five years, support education and training, program implementation, and research on public schooling, school improvement, equity, and strengthening underperforming schools.
  • Substantial private funding, secured through the UConn Foundation and totaling more than $1.4 million in the past three years from national foundations, such as the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, Bank of America Community Foundation, and Balfour Foundation, centers on addressing education equity and access needs. Likewise, generous individual donors have committed substantial funds to improving student learning, particularly in urban settings.
  • Education Equity, Achievement, and Reform cluster hires bring extensive expertise and recognized scholarship to address equity and social justice issues; new faculty join a large number of current faculty who share research expertise in school reform, education policy, measurement and evaluation, large scale quantitative data analysis, teacher education, literacy, bilingual education, special education, applied school research, and policy implementation — all areas that relate directly to equity and social justice in schools.
  • The newly hired Education Evaluation and Policy cluster faculty join the Center for Education Policy Analysis faculty to add to our extensive expertise in policy development, implementation, and analysis, with a focus on urban school reform.
  • We have strong graduate programs in educational leadership; bilingual education; special education; teacher preparation; measurement, evaluation and assessment; gifted and talented education; and educational technology.
  • We have a significant number of school-based outreach programs in urban settings, including HuskySport, IB/M internships, service learning seminars, school-based research projects, CommPACT, Bassick High School (Bridgeport) CollegeEd Program, and Bulkeley High School (Hartford) Teacher Prep Studies. In 2012-13, specific examples of outreach include the following: Our fifth-year students in teacher education logged more than 32,000 hours in urban schools last year; nearly 120 undergraduates and graduate students contributed in excess of 20,000 hours in Hartford school-based programs through HuskySport.
  • Equity and social justice emphases are embedded in the work of several of the school’s centers, institutes, and projects. These include the Center for Education Policy Analysis, Center for Behavior Education Research, National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, REALL, CommPACT, and HuskySport.
  • Extensive relationships with state policy makers (Educator Preparation Advisory Council, Achievement Gap Task Force, System for Education Evaluation and Development), teacher unions (CEA, AFT-CT), school districts, and consortia allow us to steer policy and practice discussion toward equity issues.
  • The Neag School is highly respected by school administrators, school leaders, and state and federal policy makers who provide access to research sites and funding.
  • Our strong alumni network in schools in 168 of Connecticut’s 169 towns enhances our access to research and program sites.
  • HESA curriculum incorporates content involving diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Our signature programs include equity and social justice curricular components in teacher education, sport management, UC Administrator Preparation Programs,counselor education, and school psychology.
  • We have delivered successful online and certificate programs for working teachers andadministrators, some with a global student body, for the past ten years and continue to build on our successes with new programs.
  • We have extensive engagement with the state’s early childhood assessment program.
  • We have a growing group of faculty and students who are committed to and enthusiastic about doing equity and social justice work.
  • Our higher education and student affairs (HESA) program collaborates with student affairs to enable students to engage in social justice work through cultural centers, community outreach, and residential life.

Opportunities in Equity and Social Justice

  • Federal research funds and program funds are available that focus on closing the achievement gap, identifying what works, and building education equity and access. Given our track record with obtaining IES (U.S. Department of Education), NSF, and Connecticut State Department of Education funding, we anticipate high productivity.
  • Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the U.S.; issues of education equity in Connecticut led to a lawsuit – Sheff v.O’Neill – that continues to shape policy and practice. Connecticut is a hotbed of education equity issues, providing us with ample opportunities for research, implementation, and policy work. The New England region has a number of post-industrial cities dealing with education equity issues; our faculty have conducted research and implementation studies in large cities across New England.
  • Closing the achievement gap is a state priority; the state is engaged in the development of a comprehensive data warehouse that we can access to conduct large scale analysis.
  • Opportunities exist to collaborate with Alliance school districts that receive state funding to implement effective practices. We have long-standing working relationships with eight of the Alliance districts (e.g., Hartford and Windham).
  • A school-wide focus on education equity and social justice will improve the diversity of the graduate student applicant pool and faculty and staff applications. We anticipate creating a cadre of diverse graduate students and post-docs in policy studies, focused on increasing equity and school improvement.
  • Efforts related to this research focus area will result in findings that have national relevance and provide evidence to support school reform efforts nationwide.
  • We have opportunities for collaboration across the university with programs and departments also focused on equity and social justice.
  • Our teacher education program is poised for a revision that refocuses the curriculum on equity and social justice; the groundwork is done.
  • We have an opportunity to have a university-wide impact by expanding courses, projects, and public engagement activities centered on equity and social justice.