Over these past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with my faculty mentors, Dr. Osai and Dr. Campbell. They suggested I begin my research by reviewing A+ Schools Pittsburgh’s 2021 Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh. This set the groundwork with how I could refine and establish my own research question. Through working alongside A+ Schools Pittsburgh, I’ve spent some time narrowing down the scope of my research on educational disparities to specifically center on how curriculum disparities impact postsecondary access for Black students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) system.
Now, I didn’t just stumble across this topic. I was inspired to engage in a CRF in the educational sector due to my formative educational experiences in Rochester, NY. As I’ve been delving deeper into reviewing the existing literature pertaining to my topic, I have found an unfortunate reality to be true. The inequitable experiences for Black students in Pittsburgh are mirrored not only in Rochester, but in many other communities too. It is through drawing these parallels that I hope to issue a call-to-action, not only to PPS, but to close and far-reaching school districts alike.
I spent this month establishing the framework and foundation for my research and going forward, I will begin investigating ways in which I can present my findings in the most effective and accessible manner possible. Through inviting my audience to reflect on their own educational experiences, similar or different, I hope to spark productive discussions on strategies that can be implemented to create a universally equitable experience for all students independent of race, zip code, or socioeconomic status.
At the end of this fellowship, I intend to present my research to Justice Scholars Institute (JSI), A+ Schools and our CRF cohort. However, I don’t plan to end my research here. Through creating a comprehensive literature review, I aim to build off the already existing research and raise new questions and considerations to inspire new approaches towards equitable educational access. I am also working in partnership with JSI and supporting them as they work on publishing their report on the state of education for Black students in PPS. Initially, as I started referencing sources, I quickly found that most of the published literature was not specific to PPS, but rather included more general discussions on curriculum inequities. My community partners provided me with helpful insights to approach PPS as a case study in my data collection and draw parallels between the broader, more widespread literature I review, and use it to highlight the more specific context of PPS. Doing this also gives my research greater accessibility to districts, students, teachers, and families outside of PPS.
This summer fellowship has greatly piqued my interest in pursuing educational policy later on. I have found that I am deeply passionate in what goes on “behind the scenes” in the classroom and understanding the why and the context behind my own reflections on my educational experiences. Keeping this in mind, I bring my unique perspective of communicating the research I conduct, to teachers at the frontlines in the classroom. In other words, I am leaning into my background of actually being in the classroom and seeing how curriculum is presented, to provide feasible and effective methods to create equitable educational opportunities and experiences. In communicating my research, I also aim to draw parallels from the more policy side of education to the practical dimension. Therefore, my research actively interacts with the legal sector of educational policy and social justice.
In reflecting on this past month’s research, I found the theme of community to be at the forefront. Primarily, engaging in this fellowship has placed me at the intersection of forging community partnerships. Moreover, I have been able to broaden my lens on the importance of asset-based research which affirms and values the existing wealth and opportunity that exists within the community, or as in my case, in PPS. In contrast to a deficit-based lens, asset-based research aims to work alongside, the community to enact lasting changes together. Furthermore, through deliberate and honest discussions with my community partners, I have witnessed my passion for equitable education intensify, my perspectives towards education in PPS evolve, and my outlook towards community partnerships grow even fonder. I look forward to seeing where my research takes me next!