Bridging Research and Education Policy

When starting my summer internship search this year, I reflected on how I could contribute to and what exactly I wanted to learn from a potential summer internship. After much introspection, my commitment to further the effort in closing the academic achievement gap in America inspired me to find an organization dedicated to improving public education. This determination led me to correspond with and talk to several such organizations and brought me to the site where I am currently interning – The Research Alliance for New York City Schools. The Research Alliance is a research center housed at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. The center works in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education to advance equity in education by identifying important questions for research and by providing reliable evidence about policies and practices that promote students’ academic success in order to build capacity in schools throughout New York City. Finding the organization’s mission overwhelmingly compelling, I eagerly set off for my first week as part of the Research Alliance team.

My responsibilities for the summer primarily center on working on the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), a program that seeks to close the educational achievement gap and improve college readiness and career outcomes for Black and Latino young men in New York. This effort is the cornerstone of Mayor Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative, which is the nation’s most comprehensive effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of Black and Latino young men.

Explore the Research Alliance’s recent report “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness Among Black and Latino Males in NYC.”

Forty high schools throughout the city were selected as part of the ESI. In the spring, students at these schools filled out surveys administered by the Research Alliance on topics ranging from future goals and college planning to perceptions of fairness and equal treatment in their school. Using the data from these surveys the Research Alliance hopes to better understand the impact of school climate on the challenges facing many Black and Latino young men and identify opportunities to intervene and support students more effectively. This praxis between theory and practice is critical to the greater success of any such initiative, and forming this bridge between raw data and on-the-ground policy is exactly my task for the summer.

My project for the summer is to create and distribute individualized reports for each school’s principal that focus on key findings in the data and highlight why the data is relevant to ESI and how it can be leveraged to improve school policies and students’ academic success. My first week included assisting in correspondence with the principals to thank them for their participation in the survey administration and conducting research on similar education-centered publications.

My first week excited me for the prospect of bringing principals such valuable insight on their school population and for the possibilities of policy change in schools as a result of the data and information acquired over the summer. From the very first day, my enthusiasm was further ignited by the welcoming, knowledgeable and compassionate close-knit team of researchers, data analysts and professionals I would be working with. And it was on my first day, while getting to know my supervisor and fellow colleague over lunch at Washington Square Park on an idyllic, blue-skied summer day with the faint echoes of a nearby jazz musician, that I thought to myself about how excited I am for the summer that lay ahead.

– Dina Kapengut ’14

One thought on “Bridging Research and Education Policy”

  1. Dina!
    I didn’t know you were also doing a WOW!
    Coming from an early childhood education background, and considering the work I am doing now with Head Start, I find it hard to believe that, as sad as it is, much difference can be made once students are already in junior high and high school. Sure, there are exceptions and some make great strides in their later schooling years, but most students have a set path from the day they start preschool or Kindergarten and that is very hard to change after the fact. Given my point of view, I am curious about the strategies that are being used (I am assuming that the schools you are working with are mostly middle schools and up since you mentioned young men and college prep) to reverse the pattern of school failure.
    I commend the initiative to help better young black and latino mens’ lives, but I have to wonder how likely it is that the initiative will succeed on a large scale without instituting a major shift towards early childhood education. It is easier to start kids early on the path to success and school completion than it is to reverse a path towards dropout later on.
    Obviously working with high school students is also extremely important, but those effects will be exponentially greater the earlier these initiatives start.
    Enjoy the rest of your summer!
    Avital

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