Gregory and EJ Milken Foundation Awards $40K in Faculty Research Grants

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July 1, 2015 – The Gregory and EJ Milken Foundation announced that they have awarded two Penn GSE faculty research projects $20,000 in funding each. Professors Sigal Ben-Porath and Rand Quinn, of the Education, Culture, and Society and Teaching, Learning, and Leadership programs respectively, will explore the impact of civic opportunities for high school students in Philadelphia. Policy expert Jonathan Supovitz will examine a potentially game-changing new model of school leadership.

The Milken Strategic Faculty Support Fund was launched last year, and funds new and bold ideas, research, and programming with the potential to transform education. Designed specifically for GSE faculty, this fund is intended to advance intellectual exchange, foster collaboration, and support groundbreaking research-to-practice efforts.

Sigal Ben-Porath and Rand Quinn’s partnership on “Civic Opportunities for High School Students in Philadelphia” investigates a growing consensus that a civic opportunities gap exists in the United States. This gap tracks along similar lines to the notorious academic achievement gaps between white and minority students, as well as gaps across social-economic classes. Many researchers worry about the consequences of this gap – particularly its correlation with voting patterns and other types of formal civic participation. The researchers will identify school practices and structures that foster or hinder engagement and the development of civic capacity. During the study, Ben-Porath and Quinn will work with participating schools to implement a research-based intervention program proven to improve civic engagement (for example, setting up and supporting a student government) and measure its impact on students’ sense of efficacy. 

Jonathan Supovitz’s examination of a new model of school leadership aims to add new thinking to a significant body of research demonstrating that leadership is one of the most crucial elements for student learning. Non-profit service provider Leading Educators is working with districts to introduce a new leadership model based on school management structures in England. The model focuses on developing a structural middle leadership model empowered to make change within schools. Supovitz’s work will take a look at this newly-implemented effort in the Washington, D.C. public schools, with an eye to building knowledge about a little-known and potentially transformative practice.