School of Education News

Four from UW-Madison awarded prestigious 2018 NAEd/Spencer Fellowships

May 17, 2018

The National Academy of Education (NAEd) on Thursday announced the recipients of the 2018 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral and Dissertation Fellowships, and four scholars from UW-Madison are receiving support.

Walter Stern, an assistant professor with the Department of Educational Policy Studies, is receiving a Postdoctoral Fellowship, while Ph.D. students Gwen Baxley, Giselle Martinez Negrette and Stacy Priniski ​are being awarded Dissertation Fellowships.

These prestigious fellowships provide funding and professional development to early-career researchers whose projects address critical issues in the history, theory or practice of formal or informal education, at the national and international levels.

Gloria Ladson-Billings
“The NAEd/Spencer Fellowship Programs cultivate the next generation of education scholars by funding their research projects and providing resources to strengthen their research and research training, including mentorship from NAEd members,” says NAEd President Gloria Ladson-Billings, who is a professor emerita at UW-Madison. “We consider these fellows to be among the best in their respective fields, and I look forward to working with them in the coming year.”

The NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship provides $70,000 to early-career scholars to focus on their research and attend professional development retreats. This year, the 30 postdoctoral fellows were selected from a pool of 200 applicants.

Stern earned his Ph.D. in history from Tulane University and his research focuses on the historical intersection of race and education in the urban United States. He teaches courses in history, Afro-American studies and educational policy studies on topics relating to the history of education in multicultural America, education and the Civil Rights Movement, the history of youth activism, and schools and the “urban crisis.”

His recently published book, “Race and Education in New Orleans: Creating the Segregated City, 1764-1960,” explores the critical role that schools played in the development of the modern segregated metropolis. His teaching and research interests developed out of his experiences teaching public high school in Mississippi, covering education for a daily newspaper in Georgia and working as a consultant for multiple education initiatives in Louisiana.

Walter Stern
Stern’s project receiving funding is titled, “Education for Imprisonment: School Desegregation and the Roots of Mass Incarceration in the World’s Prison Capital.” Louisiana’s path to becoming the world’s incarceration capital began in schools. As the state prepared to dramatically expand school desegregation during the late 1960s, a growing spirit of inter-racialism within New Orleans suggested that Louisiana’s largest city was prepared to redirect its long history of racial inequality. Yet violence quickly erupted within the city’s desegregating high schools as new types of black activism collided with equally adaptive forms of white resistance.

Black students were at the center of this innovative phase of the Civil Rights Movement, and in New Orleans and nationally they organized around a remarkably similar set of issues: against discriminatory disciplinary policies, police surveillance, and unequal academic and extracurricular opportunities, and for black history and the formation of black student unions. While white students often responded violently to black activism and assertiveness, white and black adults regularly misunderstood — or actively dismissed — black students’ grievances. By harshly penalizing black youth and expanding security and police surveillance within and outside of public schools, school, municipal, state and federal officials laid the groundwork for mass incarceration.

Stern's study draws upon previously unavailable archival sources to explore life inside desegregating and re-segregating high schools during a period when the future of the Civil Rights Movement and American liberalism hung in the balance. The heart of the project is a micro-history of one formerly white New Orleans public high school from 1967, which was the year it first admitted black students, to 1975, which was the year its last white students left. Expanding upon recent historical scholarship on the local, state and federal initiatives that spawned mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline, this book project explores the following question: in the state with the industrialized world’s highest incarceration rate, how did conditions inside desegregating public high schools affect the development of punitive policies within and outside of schools, and what were the consequences of those policies for students, schools and their communities?

The 35 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellows — selected from a pool of roughly 400 applicants — will receive $27,500 for a period of up to two years to complete their dissertations and also attend professional development retreats. The three Ph.D. candidates from UW-Madison who received a 2018 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship are (information about each fellowship recipient and the dissertation project they will be working on is provided by NAEd):

• Gwendolyn Baxley, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis –– Drawing on critical qualitative and quantitative methodologies, Baxley’s research explores educational spaces in which black youth and families survive, thrive and navigate, and the role of race within these contexts.

Baxley specifically investigates how school and community leaders cultivate nurturing, affirming spaces for black youth, as well as the structures, practices and ideologies that facilitate or hinder the development of such spaces. Her current research projects critically explore school-community-family initiatives, with an emphasis on historical and contemporary community schooling. Baxley’s research has been informed by her experience teaching within art-based out-of-school time contexts and more recently as an evaluator and consultant for numerous school-community-family partnerships. Baxley is a Barbara L. Jackson Scholar, David L. Clark Scholar and Wisconsin Collaborative Education Research Network Fellow.

Baxley’s project is titled, “How School Leaders Make and Enact Meaning: A Qualitative Study of Racial Discourse, Opportunity and ‘Humanity’ in Community Schools.” Full-service community schools — community-school partnerships that emphasize community-driven, holistic and asset-based school ideals — are increasingly implemented across the nation as a means to assist school stakeholders in addressing racial disparities and countering deficit, dehumanizing narratives of minoritized groups, including Black children. Yet little attention in educational research has been paid to: how implementing this asset-based initiative complements, contradicts or shifts school stakeholders’ ideologies about black children and their experiences; and how this meaning-making shapes community school implementation. Through a critical case study of community school efforts in a Midwestern district, Baxley examines the racial meaning-making among school leaders and stakeholders in a district experiencing heightened and persistent racial and structural inequities. She explores the everyday ways such meaning-making manifests in the norms, practices and ideals of community schooling. Such analysis is particularly merited given the expansion of and attention to full-service community schools across the nation with the reauthorization of ESSA.

• Giselle Martinez Negrette, Department of Curriculum and Instruction -- Negrette holds a bachelor’s degree in modern languages teaching from Universidad del Atlántico (Colombia), and a master’s in education with a concentration in bilingual education and TESOL from New Mexico State University. She has been a teacher for over 15 years, in which she has lived and worked in several different countries, including Colombia, England, China, Thailand, Mexico and the U.S. Negrette’s research interests are centered on issues of language, equity and social justice, particularly in relation to the schooling of linguistically and culturally diverse children in the United States. In her dissertation, she investigates how emergent bilinguals in dual language immersion (DLI) classrooms perceive, enact and negotiate the tenuous intersections of race/ethnicity, social class position and language in American school settings. Drawing on ethnographic methods, her research elucidates the intricate processes that young emergent bilinguals engage in as they use language to enact and negotiate their identities and interactions.

Negrette’s project is titled, “Bilingual Ways with Words: An Ethnographic Study of Language and Social Constructions in a Kindergarten Dual Language Classroom.” The education of linguistically diverse students has been a constant subject of debate in the U.S. However, recently, dual language immersion (DLI) programs have emerged in the country as effective ways to bring together language minority and language majority speakers in school settings with the goal of bilingualism and bi-literacy for all. Despite this progress, the proliferation of DLI programs has raised concerns regarding issues of inequity and dissimilar power dynamics in these spaces. Guided by two interrelated research questions, this inquiry explores first, how kindergarten emergent bilinguals in a DLI classroom perceive and respond to socially-constructed notions such as race/ethnicity, social class position and bilingualism; and second, how kindergarten emergent bilinguals in DLI classrooms enact and negotiate the intersections of race/ethnicity, social class position and language. Employing qualitative research methods — participant observations, semi-structured interviews, and video-recorded lessons — this ethnographic case study uses the intersectional lens of raciolinguistics, sociological theories of social class position and contemporary theorizations of multilingualism to examine the intricate cross-cutting dynamics at play in bilingual spaces. This research will contribute to understandings of social perceptions and relations in multilingual/multicultural/multiethnic spaces, enhancing possibilities for equitable and just design of policies, programs and practices in contemporary schools.

• Stacy Priniski, Social Psychology and a fellow in the Interdisciplinary Training Program in Education Sciences within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research -- Priniski’s research focuses on how targeted social-psychological interventions based in motivation theory can be implemented to promote equitable outcomes in higher education, especially for first-generation college students and students of color. Her particular area of expertise is value-based interventions that focus on two types of values: the value that students find in the topics they are studying and students’ own personal values. Stacy studies the ways in which these two types of values shape students’ experiences in college and how interventions can leverage those values to improve educational outcomes. Prinski investigates these processes both in the laboratory and in large-scale, randomized controlled trials in the field. Most recently, she has been working on projects assessing the values and goals of underrepresented students in a variety of educational contexts (two-year colleges, regional universities and research universities in varied geographical areas of the United States), and developing interventions for underrepresented students in each context. Her work has been recognized by the Motivation Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association through the Paul Pintrich Memorial Award.

Priniski’s project is titled, "Helping Underrepresented Students Find Prosocial Value in STEM: An Intersectional Approach to Utility-Value Interventions.” Recent research suggests that a utility-value intervention in which students write about the usefulness of what they are learning for achieving prosocial goals (e.g., giving back to one’s community) could be particularly motivating for first-generation and underrepresented racial/ethnic minority students. Such an intervention could help to address achievement gaps in STEM, but what is the best way to have students write about prosocial utility? Priniski's dissertation involves three studies to investigate the impact of different types of prosocial utility-value writing, using mixed methods. Study 1 is a survey study with introductory biology students to examine the nature of underrepresented students’ prosocial goals, using an intersectional approach considering both race and social class. Study 2 is a laboratory study in which Priniski directly manipulate the type of prosocial utility students write about (utility for helping family, community or society). Study 3 is a qualitative study in which she conducts content analyses of essays from an ongoing utility-value intervention study in introductory biology courses. Students are given a general prosocial utility prompt about connecting the material to helping “other people.” Priniski explores which types of prosocial utility students choose to write about and whether particular prosocial themes are predictive of interest, course performance or career plans, again using an intersectional approach. These studies can inform the development of an intervention toolkit for STEM educators to promote equitable outcomes by helping their students see the prosocial value of STEM.

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