This year marked a new level of engagement for IEL at the centennial meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). AERA’s theme was "Public Scholarship to Educate Diverse Democracies." IEL hosted a pre-conference workshop about what it means to be community scholars and use activist scholarship and an AERA presidential site visit that gave domestic and international scholars an opportunity to see a community schools initiative in action. IEL’s program, Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Initiative, was highlighted for its positive outcomes in supporting career development for youth that are involved with or at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. And, our board member, John Merrow, received a prestigious AERA award for excellence in media. Our staff also held affinity group meetings focused on setting future directions of research in areas of community schools, out-of-school time learning, and educational change.
Community Learning Exchange
IEL offered a pre-conference workshop, “Community Learning Exchange: Using Transformative Pedagogies for Research and Practice.” IEL staff member Lynda Tredway and board member Francisco Guajardo led the workshop in collaboration with national learning exchange faculty Matt Militello and Gretchen Generett, and Allyson Criner Brown and Lena Amick of Teaching for Change's Tellin' Stories parent program. Participants used experiential and interactive learning exchange pedagogies to expand their conception of what it means to be community scholars and use activist scholarship. The school-based experience also provided opportunities for reciprocal and collective learning. Participants examined dilemmas of practice, as all faced similar challenges about designing research that engages local people as co-researchers and is useful to the community. Reflecting on the experience, participants expressed confidence in their ability to transfer what they learned to their own situations and committed to forming an ongoing network of colleagues who could support and consult each other on community-driven research efforts. They reported that they never had an AERA experience like the learning exchange and wanted to join another exchange next year. As one participant noted, “Truly, it was the best session at AERA.”
Community School Site Visit
AERA and the Coalition for Community Schools at IEL, in partnership with the University of Colorado, co-sponsored a site visit to the Montgomery County Linkages to Learning, a local community schools initiative in Maryland. Thirty researchers from around the world toured Montgomery Knolls Elementary School, a school with a high immigrant population. They heard from a local panel that included Montgomery Knolls’ principal, community school coordinator, parent outreach coordinator, a parent, and a local organizer, as well as a national panel of researchers and practitioners including Dr. Reuben Jacobson (Coalition for Community Schools), Dr. Tina Trujillo (University California, Berkeley), Jitu Brown (Journey for Justice), and Dr. Mark Warren (University of Massachusetts, Boston). The visit exposed participants to the community schools strategy with the intention of encouraging them to develop new research ideas. The Coalition, together with the new education think tank Learning Policy Institute, also convened its Community Schools Research Affinity Group during AERA. Nearly 30 researchers gathered to share their research and explore how to collaborate to advance the community schools research agenda.
Career Focused Transition for Youth
IEL’s Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Initiative (Right Turn) provides a career development process for youth that are involved with or at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. Right Turn was featured at the AERA annual meeting in a research presentation by IEL partners at the Boston University (BU) School of Education. In 2015, researchers from BU conducted an implementation evaluation of the Right Turn initiative to document the experiences of both youth and staff. The study involved surveying youth participants and case managers from five Right Turn sites operated by community-based organizations in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas. The youth surveyed indicated that participating in Right Turn was associated with a number of positive outcomes, including gaining access to mentors, career development, jobs and resources, and social emotional skills. Case managers reported that implementing Right Turn enabled them to become more aware of the value and importance of mentoring relationships and the many strengths youth possess.
Out-of-School Time Special Interest Group Celebrates its 10th Anniversary
IEL’s Director of Institutional Advancement and National EPFP Director, Dr. Helen Janc Malone, hosted the 10th anniversary celebration of the Out-of-School Time Special Interest Group. The group, chaired by Dr. Malone, provides a forum for researchers in out-of-school time learning to share resources and become each other’s resources, to provide venues and opportunities to present related research, and to bring additional knowledge to AERA. The celebration featured a panel discussion that illuminated the need for further research in areas of STEM, social-emotional learning, and professional development. The celebration also highlighted three local DC afterschool programs: 826 National, DC Scores, and Higher Achievement.
In addition, Malone, who also chairs the Educational Change Special Interest Group, led an annual meeting of international scholars focused on understanding many aspects of educational change, including large-scale reform, school-initiated change, school improvement, and classroom-level change. The session featured a keynote by Beatriz Pont of Paris School of International Affairs titled, “School Improvement and Education Policy-Making: A Difficult Relationship.” Pont discussed the challenges of managing school improvement in the broader political and economic contexts and policies.
Excellence in Media Award
To top off the annual meeting, IEL’s Board member John Merrow won the first-ever AERA Excellence in Media Reporting on Education Research Award. AERA honored Merrow, who started his journalistic career at IEL, for his demonstrated excellence in raising awareness, knowledge, and understanding of education research.
“IEL is proud to have nurtured John through his early career, and now to have him as a member of our board,” said IEL president Martin J. Blank. “His work has helped the public and policymakers more fully understand the challenges of educating a fast-changing student population.”
The 2017 AERA annual meeting will be April 27-May 1, in San Antonio.