by Claire Miller
In her work as a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and as director of the university’s Texas Center for Educational Policy (TCEP), Angela Valenzuela has seen firsthand the problems that can arise when there’s a disconnect between universities and policy-making bodies, such as school boards and state legislatures.
Valenzuela and her colleagues at TCEP work to better understand this lack of connection and how it impacts educational policy.
“There’s a lot of research that talks about a structural void that exists between researchers and policy makers, between the few efforts to join research, policy and practice together,” she told College of Education faculty, staff and students at the Sept. 21 Research Wednesdays. “We need to develop a different understanding of policy and really consider it as a verb instead of a noun. Even though policy is usually thought of as a text, there’s the implementation of it and the discourse it creates.”
In addition to her research and teaching at the university level, Valenzuela also serves as director of the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP), a national-level initiative that aims to improve teacher quality and the teacher education pipeline for high school youth in five cities across the country. This initiative is a three-way partnership among universities, school districts and community organizations in those cities to determine the issues Latino families face and how they impact education.
“We draw from the research base that suggests that Latino and Latina teachers are not only more likely to teach in hard-to-staff schools, but they’re also more likely to stay within them because they come from those schools,” she explained. “We articulate the notion that Latino and Latina youth are uniquely positioned to also address achievement problems, moving beyond simply being a role model to suggest the power of culture in education.”
The Research Wednesdays Speaker Series is designed to fulfill three goals: to provide a platform for explorations of new ways of conducting and disseminating educational research, to discuss new methods of mentoring doctoral students in an effort to enhance their development as researchers, and to fill a professional development need by providing access to cutting edge researchers at the state and national levels.
For more information about Valenzuela and the Research Wednesdays Speaker Series, visit http://education.gsu.edu/main/coe_events.htm.