New Jersey Education Equity Project
Principal Investigators: Dr. Vandeen A. Campbell and Dr. Charles M. Payne
Graduate Research Assistants: Kristen Foley, Dillon Turner, Krishna Swaroop, Faisal Syed, Lucas Brunskill
The New Jersey Education Equity Project is a series of studies mapping educational experiences, opportunities, and outcomes across the state with a focus on monitoring for equity (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2019) by re-analyzing and re-presenting available state data. One of the ways in which equity has been centered in the project is to present a clearer picture of what segregation means for the educational experience in the state. Beyond segregation, within all types of schools, are educational opportunities equitably distributed?
An aim of the project is to zero-in on areas of the educational experience which can be leveraged to positively impact student outcomes and study them deeply using quantitative and qualitative methodology. High leverage areas include positive, supportive, and well-resourced school environments; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) access; and adequate preparation for college and the workforce in ways that can ultimately close socioeconomic gaps. The studies lead to well-researched discussions of policy and practice solutions and convenings with a wide range of stakeholders, advancing strategic use of the research.
Driven by the narrative of possibility (Payne & Ortiz, 2017), another aim of the project is to identify and learn from schools which do better with traditionally underserved populations. Are there schools which are positive outliers and what can we learn from them?
Studies within the NJ Education Equity project are listed below.
1. The NJ High School Experience Study
The High School Experience study investigates disparities in opportunities and outcomes for high school students in the state along lines of segregation and by student subgroups. The study intends to shed light on the high school experience of racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and English learners, and special education students, and, where possible, focus on students’ trajectory. Beginning with the transition from 8th to 9th grade, where are the opportunities? What are the potholes? What does the pipeline to adulthood look like? Where are we losing young people? The study will yield numerous public reports and research papers within the topic areas listed below.
Mapping the Landscape. Partially funded by the New Jersey State Policy Lab (NJSPL) the study has led to a series of policy and practitioner-oriented reports and data exploration dashboards based on school- and district-level data released publicly by NJ Department of Education and Civil Rights Data Collection. Topics of released reports include:
- Science course-taking patterns
- Math course-taking patterns
- Suspension patterns
Forthcoming reports will cover:
- Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and dual enrollment (DE)
- Career and technical education (CTE)
- School resources and climate
- High school graduation, college readiness, and college enrollment
Cohort Study. With partial support from Rutgers University Research Council, the study will also lead to longitudinal research studying the factors affecting postsecondary outcomes of cohorts of high school freshmen in the state. Key research questions are: What school conditions are associated with high school freshmen cohorts staying on-track? Considering a range of factors, which are most predictive of postsecondary success?
Evaluate Policies. Other research will evaluate various statewide or local policies such as the impact of the portfolio degree option for graduation requirements in mathematics and English language arts and the option to offer Algebra I in 8th grade.
2. The STEM Pathways Study
With funding from the New Jersey State Policy Lab and the American Education Research Association (AERA)-National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Grant Program, a study of high school STEM pathways has been launched. The study will identify the science course pathways common in NJ high schools and test their effectiveness. What science course pathways are predictive of pursuing and persisting in a STEM major? How does this vary for racial/ethnic and gender subgroups of students and by various school characteristics? What can we learn from schools serving underrepresented minorities in STEM but having strong science course pathways?
3. Segregated Schooling in New Jersey: The Distribution of Opportunities to Learn by Race, Ethnicity, and Class
This study draws primarily on data from the New Jersey Department of Education School Performance Reports and looks specifically at what we know about segregated school environments. What happens when Black and Brown students are concentrated in schools with higher levels of poverty, in a way that poor White children are not concentrated? The report will present data covering the K-12 grade span.