Hello! I am a Ph.D. student in Education at Harvard University. I study how narratives, ideologies, and identity influence the policymaking process, particularly in education reform environments. With individuals, I am interested in questions like how people develop their beliefs about what is equitable, right, and just; how and why people might experience changes in their beliefs about race and racism; and how people make sense of policy and its impacts on the ground. I am also interested in how these dynamics play out in organizational and political contexts, exploring questions like how organizations respond to political, financial, and social pressures as they engage in racial justice work and how organizations navigate policy windows, periods of intense structural change, and moments of crisis.
I explore these questions within the U.S. education system for two reasons. First, education is a site of political contestation, a space that both reflects back and creates our understandings of history, race, class, opportunity, progress, and democracy. Second, I wish to better understand how—in a world governed by endemic racism and pervasive neoliberalism—educators, schools, and communities might find ways to acknowledge, disrupt, and imagine alternatives to the status quo. My work is primarily sociological and qualitative, although I also draw on key tenets and methods of public policy, historiography, and science and technology studies. These themes are reflected in my research projects, described below:
The Evolution of Teacher Beliefs in No-Excuses Charter Schools (with Jal Mehta)
Through nearly forty interviews with current and former teachers and leaders in "no-excuses" charter schools, we explore how the beliefs of no-excuses educators about race, reform, student relationships, and equity have (or have not) changed over time. We are particularly interested in how, as no-excuses schools announce intentions to change and reinvent their models, the people within them are making sense of these changes in light of changes in the broader political environment and their own personal lives. We explore what drew teachers to the no-excuses environment, how their beliefs shifted or solidified in response to personal changes (e.g., becoming parents), organizational changes (e.g., their school introducing restorative practices), and broader political changes (e.g., implementation of Common Core and/or rising awareness of racial violence).
Ending Emergency: How School Districts Navigate a Return to Local Control
Over the last thirty years, numerous states have placed school districts under state control or emergency management, removing local school boards and superintendents and focusing heavily on fiscal surveillance and market-based solutions to turnaround districts. A rich body of research finds that these reforms negatively impact community engagement, inaccurately historicize the causes of educational inequality, and have little impact on student academic achievement. We know less about what happens - in cities from Oakland, to Philadelphia, to Detroit - when a city regains local control of their schools. What strategies does the district pursue, and how do they balance local goals with oft-competing state accountability requirements? In what ways do these districts seek to address legacies of racism, historic urban disinvestment, and broken community trust? What policy narratives and ideologies surface amidst the "rebuilding" of a district?
The Influence of Philanthropy on K-12 Education Policy (with Megan Tompkins-Stange)
Prior to beginning my PhD, I collaborated on a number of projects exploring the intersection of private philanthropic foundations and education with Megan Tompkins-Stange at the University of Michigan. The first, a community-based research initiative in Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood, explored how a foundation might create greater transparency and trust amongst grantees, intermediaries, and funders in a a collective of home-based preschool providers. The second project, "Financing the Education Policy Discourse: How Advocacy Research Funded by Private Individuals Shapes the Debate on Teacher Quality," examined how the idea of value-added teacher evaluation formed, and traveled across academia, advocacy groups, foundations, and think tanks, ultimately becoming the federal government's major teacher quality reform in the 2000s and 2010s.