Welcome to Edge: Carolina Education Review, a publication that showcases some of the research conducted by faculty at the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We are a research-intensive organization focused on achieving equity in educational access and outcomes for all learners in a diverse and just society. We pursue innovative, research-based solutions to the most pressing problems of educational theory, practice, programs, and policy.
Edge highlights our faculty members’ leading-edge work and the ways in which their research is helping transform teaching, learning, and educational policy, as well as the preparation and professional growth of educators and leaders in our schools.
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COVER STORY: Getting inside students’ minds
Researcher: Matthew Bernacki
Matthew Bernacki, Ph.D., is a pioneer in the development of new ways to observe and analyze how students learn. Working with a team of researchers, Bernacki uses the methods to uncover new understandings of how students think about and regulate their own learning. Additionally, he and his team use those findings to deliver learning support to those students his models predict will struggle in a class.
The importance of principals
Researcher: Constance A. Lindsay
Constance Lindsay, Ph.D. recently coauthored a study that examines the practices and behaviors that make some school principals more effective than others. “How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research” looks into the impact of school leaders on the academic achievement of their students.
Partnering for better training
Researcher: Martinette Horner
Martinette Horner, Ed.D., writes in an article published in the Journal of Organizational and Educational Leadership that partnerships between university-based principal preparation programs and school districts can bridge the preparation-practice divide that can hamper effective school principal preparation.
Building diverse schools
Researcher: Thurston Domina
Does busing, and other programs to balance student populations, harm students? Thurston “Thad” Domina, Ph.D., set out to study that question. He and his team found evidence that assignment systems aiming to create more diverse school environments can achieve those goals without impeding the educational progress of students, including the children of White families. Racing to nowhere
Researcher: Matthew G. Springer
Reforms of teacher evaluation systems across the country during the last dozen years have largely failed their primary goal: To raise student academic performance. That’s one of the findings of a study co-authored by Matthew Springer, Ph.D. The study, which its authors say provides the broadest and most generalizable evidence of the efficacy of teacher evaluation reforms in the U.S., concludes that despite billions of dollars spent reforming teacher evaluation systems, the reforms have had almost zero positive effect on student outcomes.
Making the grade
Article by: Ethan Hutt
In October, U.S. News & World Report announced that in addition to its annual rankings of high schools, colleges, and graduate schools, the company was releasing a list ranking the top elementary and middle schools in the country. Immediately, teachers, school officials, scholars, and commentators on both the left and the right overwhelmingly panned the announcement. A pragmatist ethic and how to build ‘small democracy’
Article by: Daniel Gibboney
Cooperative attempts to address social concerns increasingly appear fraught. The rise of authoritarian regimes and of “alt-right” nationalism masked as populism, together with deepening cultural and political polarization make these dangerous times for democracy, says Lynda Stone, Ph.D.
Troy D. Sadler is part of a team that has worked to develop and implement a framework of science education that incorporates “issues-based” learning with curricula and teaching materials aimed at engaging elementary, middle and high school students. With funding from the National Science Foundation, he and his team have created teaching materials centered around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rune J. Simeonsson has devoted his career to teaching and research in child development, special education and public health, particularly the developmental and psychological characteristics of children and youth with chronic conditions and disabilities. He has led efforts to establish and study the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health-Children and Youth Version — a system of classifying and describing the abilities, limitations, and environmental factors that may affect the learning and socialization of children and young people. The system can aid understandings of clinical and educational practices that help children and youth of all abilities.
Esther O. Ohito has studied and written about race in education, including a focus on how teacher-educators have worked to uncover their own biases and have sought to engage in antiracist teaching. She has studied and written about the role of race, the power of racism, and the effort and practices of educators who are compelled to pursue antiracism work in their classrooms and schools.
Ellen Peisner-Feinberg has led evaluations of statewide pre-K programs in three states, documenting the benefits of early childhood education for children. The studies also have identified policy and K-3 alignment suggestions, and professional development opportunities that could help sustain the gains children achieve in preschool.
Lauren Sartain has studied a range of topics around policies and practices that affect teaching in schools, with a focus on work related to equitable access to quality public education. She has examined teacher evaluation systems, including conducting a study of the system used by Chicago schools. She found that lower performance ratings given to Black teachers can be almost entirely explained by the fact that those teachers are more likely to work in higher-poverty schools. The results have important implications given the widening demographic and racial gaps between students and their teachers and the shortage of teachers of color in American school classrooms.
A new book co-authored by UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education faculty member Constance Lindsay examines evidence that a more diverse teacher workforce benefits all students, especially Black males from low-income households.
Constance Lindsay has conducted research into race-match effects in academic achievement and disciplinary outcomes in schools. She and colleagues have found that having just one Black teacher has positive effects for Black students — especially for Black males from low-income households. The findings have important policy and research implications.
Eric Houck, associate professor in educational leadership and policy at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education, worked with doctoral student Brittany Murray to conduct a study that quantified the financial and demographic changes brought about by school district secessions. They found that school district secessions are contributing to increasing racial segregation of American public schools and serving to exacerbate wealth disparities among school systems.
Dorothy Espelage, a leading researcher on school safety issues, has led research evaluating the impact of the presence of police and security officers. Espelage has led a pilot study to develop and evaluate an online training program to instruct school security personnel to avoid adding to students’ trauma.
Dana Griffin, associate professor of school counseling, has conducted research on school-family-community partnerships, promoting a series of strategies through which educators can establish effective collaborations that support academic achievement among marginalized students.
Kara Hume, relying on years of experience working with children and youth with autism, led a team that rapidly put together a toolkit that families and caregivers could use to support individuals with autism during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Robert Martinez, assistant professor of school counseling, describes eight areas of strength (fuerzas) that Latinx students typically possess and suggests ways in which educators — and school counselors in particular — can build upon those strengths.
Dorothy Espelage, the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Education at the School of Education at UNC-Chapel Hill, has led a 25-year research agenda that has illuminated issues around youth violence and has led to interventions, policies, and laws aimed at helping protect students and making schools safer. In this Q&A, Espelage talks about some of the key things she has discovered, and where her new work is leading.
Eileen Carlton Parsons, who studies the influences of socio-cultural factors, specifically race and culture, on learning in STEM subjects, served on a National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine expert panel that examined ways to improve teaching and learning in science and engineering. In this Q&A, Parsons talks about the report’s focus on recognizing and bridging inequities that have shut many students out of high-quality science instruction.
Marisa Marraccini has identified that few high schools have formal protocols for reintegrating students into school environments after they’ve been psychiatrically hospitalized. She is leading new research to identify the components of reintegration protocols that would be effective in helping adolescents in their return to school after psychiatric hospitalization.
Research by Matthew Springer and colleagues has identified that paying highly effective teachers salary incentives — when the incentive programs are carefully designed and implemented — can help reduce teacher turnover, leading to higher student achievement. New research is pointing to factors that can make salary incentive programs more effective.
Lora Cohen-Vogel, our Frank A. Daniels Professor of Public Policy and Education, is a leader in a movement to bring the principles of improvement science to educational settings. Lora developed an expertise in continuous quality improvement through her work as co-principal investigator with the five-year, $13.5 million National Center for Research and Development on Scaling Up Effective Schools. The project has generated a considerable amount of research describing effective practices to incorporate and expand improvement efforts in schools.
Gregory Cizek, the Guy B. Phillips Distinguished Professor of Educational Measurement and Evaluation, is a nationally recognized authority in his field. One of his special interests is validity theory. Cizek works at questions involving whether assessments accurately measure student understanding, and whether those test results are used appropriately. Can tests that measure student performance be used to assess teachers? That’s among the questions Cizek’s research explores.
Informed by her research and her work with children with learning disabilities, Jennifer Diliberto, clinical associate professor of special education, has developed a curriculum that has been shown to help teach students with dyslexia and other disabilities to read. Her curriculum, “Taking on Tough Words,” has been adopted by school districts in a dozen states. It relies on “syllabication,” which Jennifer’s work has demonstrated helps struggling readers.
Professor Sherick Hughes, in the work of preparing educators and educational researchers, asks us to look inside ourselves. To be effective in educational settings and in our communities, it’s important to wrestle with questions about our inherent biases and the biases embedded in our culture. Through autoethnography, Hughes shows how that’s done by thinking and writing about his own experiences and how they have shaped his understandings.
Thad Domina, associate professor of educational policy and sociology, is raising some big questions with a recent study. He and colleagues took a look at data from the National School Lunch Program, asking a basic question: Is participation in the lunch program a good proxy for socio-economic status? It turns out they may not be … which has big ramifications for educational researchers and administrators of many educational programs.
Lynne Vernon-Feagans has worked since 2004 developing a powerful program that helps teachers better instruct struggling readers. By using webcams, the “Targeted Reading Intervention” enables on-campus coaches to watch as teachers in high-need rural schools work one-on-one with students — and then provide on-the-spot feedback. In our cover article, Vernon-Feagans and Dean Fouad Abd-El-Khalick talk about some of the challenges in teaching reading with Susan Gates of the analytics firm SAS. Gates was a leader in the production of a Business Roundtable report “Why Reading Matters and What To Do About It.”
Kihyun “Kelly” Ryoo is conducting leading research on new ways to teach science. Building on her doctoral work at Stanford, she has developed new tools that use visualizations and interactive animations to teach science concepts to middle school students — especially English language learners. It’s promising, impactful work that has attracted support from the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Education, and the Spencer Foundation.
Keith Sawyer is a nationally recognized leading researcher on creativity and the teaching of creativity. Yes, he says, creativity can be taught! He describes some of his findings and describes how classroom instruction needs to change if we want to nurture creative thinkers.
Jeffrey Greene is developing new ways to analyze data that explores the way we learn. He’s applying those findings to “digital literacy,” tools we need to more accurately understand our changing world. For this and other work, Greene received the 2016 Richard E. Snow Award for Early Contributions from Division 15 of the American Psychological Association
Dana Thompson Dorsey, equipped with a legal training background, has written about the landscape of desegregation and the effects of increasing racial isolation among students in our schools. Now she is building on that work to develop new understandings of the compounded effects of geographic isolation among rural minority students.