UCLA at AERA 2019 – A Roundup

by John McDonald

What’s a scholar to do in the “post-truth” era?

For starters, go to the American Education Research Association annual meeting (AERA 2019), this year held in Toronto, Canada. Addressing the conference theme, Leveraging Education Research in a Post-Truth Era, more than 15,000 scholars convened on Canada’s largest city in early April to assess and share their work and discuss the challenges confronting educational research.

At a time when facts and evidence are being undermined and lies and misinformation have become an all-too-common driver of political context, the question AERA posits is, “How, in a so-called ‘post-truth’ political era when evidence is shunted and emotion is exploited, can we make our research matter to lessen inequality and increase educational opportunities?”

Representatives of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies turned out in force to take on the challenge. In events ranging from poster sessions presenting graduate research, to roundtable discussions on key issues, to research seminars on critical topics and AERA Presidential Sessions highlighting the work of distinguished scholars, UCLA’s diverse and talented faculty, students, and staff were everywhere.

“I was tremendously proud to be part of our UCLA team at AERA 2019,” says UCLA Education Professor Tyrone Howard. “Everywhere you went at the conference, the diversity, talent, energy and scholarship of our graduate students and faculty was on display. It was especially exciting to see the talent ofour students as they shared their work with other researchers and educators. It was just great to see and I think made clear that the future of education research and practice is very bright at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.”

A partial roundup of UCLA activities includes:

Daniel G. Solórzano

A  highlight of the conference was the standing-room-only attendance of this year’s AERA Distinguished Lecture by UCLA Professor of Education Daniel G. Solórzano who shared “My Critical Race Journey to Racial Microagressions and Microaffirmations,” based on his long career on critical race studies.

John Rogers, professor of education and director of the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA) at UCLA, also presented his new research, School and Society in the Age of Trump. Based on a national survey of high school principals, the study finds America’s high schools greatly impacted by political incivility and riven by untrustworthy information and the omnipresent use of social media. In this highly charged environment, schools are struggling to address many of the same critical issues confronting the nation, including opioid abuse, immigration, and gun violence. Joining Professor Rogers in the session were UCLA Ph.D. candidate Rebecca Cooper Geller, who shared her research on the views of teachers on school climate, and UCLA researcher Michael Ishimoto, who shared his presentation at the role and impact of misinformation and social media in schools.

Laura Chavez Moreno, is a postdoctoral scholar working at UCLA with Professor Marjorie Orellana. Moreno, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2018, took top honors as the recipient of the Bilingual Education Research Special Interest Group Outstanding Dissertation Award, and the Hispanic Research Issues Special Interest Group Outstanding Dissertation Award. Her research titled, “A Critical Race Ethnography Examining Dual-language Education in the New Latinx Diaspora: Reinforcing and Resisting Bilingual Education’s Racial Roots,” explores whether and how dual language programs may unintentionally exacerbate racial inequalities.

UCLA CRESST researchers, including the ELPA21 program team took part in more than 25 events at AERA (and NCME)  on topics ranging  from the challenges of scaling tests for small populations, to a survey of research on using an iPad to teach preschoolers measurement concepts, to the effect of feedback on learner behavior and performance in digital gaming. Over 20 CRESST researchers, including Director Li Cai, Fouding Director Eva L. Baker, Katerina Schenke, Jia Wang, Joan Herman and others took part as authors, chairs, instructors, presenters, and speakers. You can find more on UCLA CRESST at AERA here.  

Sabrina Miller & Annie Le

Graduate students Annie Le and Sabrina Miller lit up the Monday Poster Sessions. Le presented her research examining “Asian American and Pacific Islander Youth and the School to Prison pipeline,” while Miller shared her work on “Collective Impact and Rural Communities in Post-Secondary Education.”

Building on the work he has been doing with homeless youth in Los Angeles, graduate student Earl J. Edwards took part in a symposium on vulnerable youth, presenting his research on the academic success of black students who have been homeless and helping to identify strategies to better support homeless youth.

Earl J. Edwards

Sidronio Jacobo, a graduate student on his first visit to AERA, took part in a paper session on Community College Teaching and Learning, examining “Toward Asset Based Teaching and Learning, with UCLA colleagues.

Dan Losen

Dan Losen, director of the the UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project, was up early on a Saturday morning as a presenter for the AERA Presidential Session, “Civil Rights and Education in the Post-Truth Era.” Dan’s point – “its important to work for policy change, but we need to change the hearts and minds of educators.” Losen was also a presenter in an AERA Presidential Session on combatting the school-to-prison pipeline and chaired a session on building knowledge about research practice partnerships. Dan seemed to be just about everywhere.

Tyrone Howard with Shawn Harper (right)

Another visible presence at AERA 2019 was Professor Tyrone Howard, Director of the Black Male Institute at UCLA and Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in Education to Strengthen Families at the UCLA Pritzker Institute for Strengthening Children and Families. Among other activities, Howard joined with USC Professor Shaun Harper, next year’s AERA president, to lead a roundtable discussion for the 23rd Annual Conversation with Senior Scholars on Advancing Research and Professional Development related to black education.

Annamarie Francois

Professor Howard also teamed with Annamarie Francois, director of UCLA’s Center X, for an AERA Division session on teacher preparation and performance assessments. Francois focused on an asset-based approach to teacher performance assessments to further diversity, equity, and inclusion in California’s public schools.  Look for more on this session in a future issue.

Working with Professor Sylvia Hurtado, graduate student Katherine S. Cho joined with Xochilth Lopez and others to present research on ways universities can create cultures of retention to help low-income, first-generation and minority students stay in school. We missed her presentation but caught up with her at the elevator to hear about her research. Check out the video.

Jean Ryoo, Tiera Tanksley and Cynthia Estrada

Jean J. Ryoo, Research Director of the UCLA Center X CS Equity Project, chaired a division session on furthering equity in computer science education with 11 teams presenting research. Senior researcher Jane S. Margolis submitted research on scaling up equity, and Julie Flapan, director of the statewide Computer Science for All, was part of a team examining barriers and practices to broaden participation in computing for underrepresented students. Graduate student researchers Tiera Tanksley and Cynthia Estrada joined with Ryoo to present their project on centering youth perspectives in computer science education. One of the best moments of the session was when the very proud parents of Cynthia dropped in to check out her research.

Cynthia Raquel Escobedo, Mary Senyonga, and Audrey Parades

In another favorite session, grad students Cynthia Raquel Escobedo, Mary Senyonga, and Audrey Parades shared their truth as women of color in educational research. Escobedo shared her personal story and research on Latina/Chicana mother-daughter scholars, and Senyonga drew on her experience and research on Uganda in a session challenging the idea of the exceptional immigrant. At a time when Central Americans are migrating to the United States in large numbers, Parades challenged the ideas of the sameness of Central American students in higher education. Look for more stories on these sessions in future issues of Ampersand.

Joseph Bishop, director of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools, joined with Barnett Barry, the CEO of the Center for Teacher Quality, to present an analysis of the limitations of policy –such as the establishment of academic standards — to influence instruction and explored strategies for how policy can affect instructional improvement. Bishop also presented findings of his paper with UCLA doctoral student Miguel Casar examining how claiming power through different forms of bottom-up policy formation can reshape notions of civic identity and contribute to more socially just and critical ways of knowing, learning, researching, and constructing policy.

Graduate student Rose Ann Gutierrez presented research examining how community college students evaluate online resources including videos and websites, for studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In one of the last AERA Presidential sessions of the conference, UCLA Center for Community Schools Director Karen Hunter Quartz joined with Rebecca Cooper Geller and Shante Stuart McQueen (now at Pitt) in a session they titled, “A Beautiful Struggle,” exploring efforts to reimagine neighborhood schools in urban communities. And in a session that seemed to be not only a research discussion, but also a physics experiment testing how many people can fit around a table, Quartz joined with UCLA graduate research students to examine the use of research practice partnerships with university-partnered community schools for graduate student training. UCLA participants included Karla Rivera-Torres, Sidronio Jacobo, Janelle Franco, Evelyn Wang and Lilia Rodriguez.

And last but not least – GSE&IS and CRESST threw a great party on Sunday night! – no one to wanted leave!

Editor’s note: Our apologies to those from our team at UCLA who participated in AERA but were not mentioned here. Too many great sessions to mention.