At Brown University, students study education from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including anthropology, economics, history, political science, psychology, and sociology. The faculty—social scientists, historians, and field-based experts—teach a wide array of undergraduate courses that comprise the Education Studies Concentration, lead two graduate programs (Master of Arts in Teaching and Urban Education Policy), and conduct research on important educational issues.
Learn more about Brown's Urban Education Policy program at our OPEN HOUSE on Saturday, October 29 from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Crystal Room at Alumnae Hall, 194 Meeting Street, Providence
The Brown Education Department Speaker Series will host three upcoming Fall 2016 presentations:
- Tuesday, Oct. 18, 4 p.m. - Jason Okonofua, assistant professor in Psychology at Stanford University, on “When Bias and Threat Persistently Interact: A Holistic Approach to Understand the Lingering Effects of Stereotypes”
- Wednesday, Oct. 26, 5 p.m. - Clint Smith, writer, teacher, 2014 National Poetry Slam champion, and Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University, on The Danger of Silence, How to Raise a Black Son in America, and his recently-published collection of poems, Counting Descent
- Thursday, Nov. 3, 12 p.m. - Hilary Levey Friedman, visiting assistant professor in American studies at Brown University, on “Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture”
Department of Education News
Department of Education Lecturer on Discovery Science Channel
Brown University Department of Education Adjunct Assistant Professor Martin Gardiner appeared on “Through the Wormhole,” a Discovery Science Channel show narrated by actor Morgan Freeman that highlights various findings by what the show’s creators consider “rock stars of science.”
Dr. Gardiner appears in an episode called “Can We All Become Geniuses?” that first aired on Sept. 20, 2016. Dr. Gardiner’s segment of the episode, which can be viewed online, explores whether music can help make one a genius.
“Music provides a fantastic opportunity to strengthen your mind,” stated Dr. Gardiner, who spent decades following children as they progressed between the ages of seven to 35, during the show’s episode. “It’s one of the most marvelous inventions of humanity.”
Dr. Gardiner’s research explored how learning music can strengthen the brain’s prefrontal cortex and concluded that whether students received musical training at an early age is a strong predictor of academic success.
Dr. Nora Gordon Kicks Off Education Department Fall 2016 Speaker Series
On Thursday, Sept. 22, students, faculty and staff gathered over lunch in the Barus Building Dewey Conference Room for the first of the Department of Education’s four-part fall semester speaker series.
Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy Associate Professor Nora Gordon kicked off the series with her dynamic presentation, "Medicaid, Special Education, and Children's Access to Health Services."
Dr. Gordon, a research associate of the National Bureau of Education Research and an expert on Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has been studying school-based Medicaid billing for special education and trends in how states use categorical versus general aid for education. Looking around the room at various student teachers, she shared her excitement at talking about the project with people who have spent more time in schools than she has, then jokingly answered a query on how she balances teaching, research, advisory panels, and raising three kids (the secret to her success: an 8:30 p.m. bedtime). Then she briefed the audience on how in 1988 Congress authorized Medicaid to reimburse for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)-related services for children with special education needs. She had been surprised to learn just how large the Medicaid program is for school-aged children.
In exploring children’s access to health services, Gordon looked at how the different goals and players interact and how researchers can formulate questions, gaining insight on the ins and outs of a policy goal designed to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. The system is incredibly complex, Gordon revealed; Medicaid only funds children’s medical services under IEPs, covering speech, physical, and occupational therapy but not learning disabilities. IDEA covers 16% of the cost, distributing federal special education funds through state and discretionary grant programs, but the content and fidelity to the goals written into students’ IEPs are highly variable, Gordon found - as is cross-state participation in special education programs. Some states, such as Texas, are attempting to reclassify special education, moving students into plans requiring fewer services and saving more money. The percentage of children identified as having special education needs ranges from state to state; for example, 9% in Texas have needs compared to 18% in Massachusetts (one audience member pointed out that Rhode Island has been reported to have the highest percentage, around 20%). IDEA adjusts numbers based on poverty because of a correlation between poverty and disability, while dollar amounts are based on predicted, rather than actual, students with special education needs. School districts are attempting to match numbers to finances set by states while Medicaid amounts vary. One goal, Gordon reported, is to look beyond education financial incentives such as funding formulas and instead focus on measures of effectiveness such as how many students have an IEP, how many students need an IEP, and whether the IEPs are appropriate and well-implemented. One must question, Gordon told the audience, whether special education needs are the same across all states and all populations or whether some students are being underserved. Districts are required by law to service students with needs, but states are struggling with funding constraints.
Billing for Medicaid is complex; private vendors are hired for billing and receive a commission on reimbursements. The National Association of Medicaid Directors conferences feature “big billing” (Gordon compared them to “big pharma”) vendors persuading school administrators to sign on with them. Billing is often layered so that teachers and therapists cannot see students’ Medicaid statuses, and pull-down menu options can have unclear options for entering information such as dosages. There is no comprehensive data source, Gordon revealed; the National Alliance for Medicaid and Medication tracks only 26 reporting states. There are 51 different policies and programs across our country, and coverages vary greatly.
Dr. Gordon listed some questions to inform Medicaid under the IDEA policy:
Do incentives to bill affect access (both for medical services and other special education services), general education resources, and child outcomes (health, education, and long-term)?
How do observable aspects of state reimbursement policies correlate with observations?
Gordon also reported that 26 states choose to charge administration fees, which vary from 1% in Kansas to 88% in Nebraska. 34 states and the District of Columbia have no fee. This leads to questions about whether access was in or out of school and whether the fees relate directly to the number of students with access, but her questions were limited by available data. Gordon’s findings support the claim that therapists want to help students and address their needs, but varying incentives and billing practices and state policies make it difficult to track needs addressed and goals met.
Gordon fielded questions from audience members, some of which she was unable to answer because she can only measure what’s across all states - giving students and faculty a glimpse into the frustrations of those who depend on good data to adequately track program effectiveness. She confirmed that IDEA and Medicaid amounts shouldn’t interact because they are formula-driven and not district or state comparisons. IDEA funds don’t have to be medical, she informed the crowd, so those funds are more flexible. She also referred the audience to research by MIT Ph.D. candidate Elizabeth Setren, who has closely studied the charter school system in Boston and discovered that when the charter schools removed IEPs for special education students and English Language Learner students, the students’ scores have gone up. This led her to question what it means to have an IEP and whether a good general education could replace IEPs. Gordon left the crowd with this food for thought.
The Brown Education Department Speaker Series will include three more events this fall:
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 4 p.m. (refreshments provided)
Jason Okonofua, assistant professor in Psychology at Stanford University
Topic: “When Bias and Threat Persistently Interact: A Holistic Approach to Understand the Lingering Effects of Stereotypes”
Wednesday, Oct. 26, 5 p.m. (refreshments provided)
Clint Smith, writer, teacher, 2014 National Poetry Slam champion, and Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University
Topics: The Danger of Silence, How to Raise a Black Son in America, and his recently-published collection of poems, Counting Descent
Thursday, Nov. 3, 12 p.m. (lunch provided)
Hilary Levey Friedman, visiting assistant professor in American studies at Brown University
Topic: “Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture”
We are very excited to announce that the National Science Foundation has awarded a 5 year grant to Professor Dan Bisaccio and his colleagues Charles Steinhorn (Vassar College), Victor Donnay (Bryn Mawr), and Maria Rivera (Barnard College) for “Summer STEM Teaching Experiences for Undergraduates (TEU) from Liberal Arts Institutions”. The $2.2 million over 5 years TEU program will develop and test a model program that provides undergraduate STEM majors with an immersive summer experience in secondary mathematics or science education. Over five summers, a total of 120 undergraduates (24 per year) will be recruited from a network of 60 liberal arts institutions to take part in a 6-7 week program that integrates a high quality STEM discipline specific pedagogy course with a teaching practicum. Twelve students per summer will participate in a mathematics TEU program at Brown University and 12 will participate in a science TEU program at Trinity College.
Sixty liberal arts colleges and universities have committed to join this project as institutional partners. The majority of these institutions do not currently offer discipline-specific STEM pedagogy courses in their Education programs. The TEU pedagogy course will enhance participants’ discipline specific pedagogical knowledge and skills. In the practicum, which is tightly integrated with the course, participants will create and deliver lessons of their own design to local urban secondary students in a summer enrichment program. The teaching practicum will allow participants to apply the theories and strategies they are learning in their pedagogy course directly to classroom teaching. The TEU participants will be closely supervised in their teaching by master teacher mentors.
The high school students for the Brown TEU will be drawn from the Providence area and will be taking part in Brown Summer High School (BSHS). For the Trinity TEU, students will be the entire class of rising sophomores from the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA). Over the 5 years, roughly 1250 high school students will receive an enriching STEM experience through these programs. This project builds upon a highly successful TEU pilot project focused on math pedagogy held at Brown Summer High School in 2013 and 2014.
Assistant Professor of Education Mona Abo-Zena
Co-edited with Carola Suarez-Orozco and Amy Marks, Transitions: The Development of Children of Immigrants was released this month. The volume takes a developmental approach that focuses on contexts, processes, and outcomes to understand this growing, diverse group of children and youth.
Dr. Joan Gujarati, Lecturer in Education; Director of Elementary Education
Prior to her appointment at Brown University, Gujarati spent five years in the School of Education at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY where she began as an Assistant Professor of Childhood Education, teaching courses predominantly in childhood mathematics education, and then assumed the position of Associate Dean for Accreditation and Technology. Before receiving her EdD from Teachers College, Columbia University, she spent 15 years as an early childhood and elementary classroom teacher.
Her current research focuses on elementary teachers’ mathematics identity (their beliefs about themselves in relation to mathematics), and the relationship between their mathematics identity and their teaching practices. She is in the process of analyzing several years’ worth of mathematics autobiographies which teacher candidates wrote at the start of each semester in her mathematics methods courses. She want to probe what, if any, common themes emerge across these stories and how they can potentially impact the structure of mathematics methods courses in order to prepare teacher candidates for greater mathematics success and set them on more positive mathematics teaching journeys.
EDUC 2120 Practicum and Analysis Seminar in Elementary Education
Dr. Rachel Kantrowitz, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
Rachel Kantrowitz received her PhD in African History from New York University in May 2015. While at Brown University, she will be teaching courses in International and Comparative Education, working on her manuscript, and adding to her digital database of archival sources. Dr. Kantrowitz’s manuscript in progress, “Education for All: Development and Decolonization in Francophone West Africa”, examines a French development program in West Africa within the context of shifting stakes in Franco-African relations. A regional study of the international move towards mass education, “Education for All” explores debates about secular versus religious schools, changing the curriculum and language of instruction, and the relationship between education and development. Her work will appear in the March 2016 issue of Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines. She is looking forward to meeting Brown faculty and students as well as fully participating in the life of the Education Department.
EDUC 1030 Comparative Education: International Trends and Local Perspectives
By Matthew A. Kraft and John P. Papay