Bridwell-Mitchell opens 12th Visiting Scholars of Color Lecture Series

December 17, 2019
Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell delivers a lecture.

Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell opened Penn GSE’s 2019-2020 Visiting Scholar of Color Lecture Series with a discussion on measuring the impact of school partnerships.

On paper, new education policies can look transformative.

In practice, the same policies can be unnoticeable, ineffective, or—worst of all—harmful to students.

What happens between policy crafting and policy implementation can often feel like a black box, said Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell, associate professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Bridwell-Mitchell opened Penn GSE’s 12th annual Visiting Scholars of Color Lecture Series with a December 5 discussion of her ongoing research about the relationship between school partnerships and school outcomes.

2019-2020 Visiting Scholar of Color Lecture Series

Sally Nuamah, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University

 April 1, 2020, 12-1:15 pm

“I study organizations to try and understand what happens when we try to implement policies that happen in an organizational context,” Bridwell-Mitchell said. “I’m trying to provide a little more detail in the black box of policy implementation.”

From the perspective of someone who studies policies through an organizational lens, Bridwell-Mitchell said, there are reasons why policy implementation is so hard.

Institutionalized beliefs in practices are deeply ingrained and can be tied to people’s identities. Normative forces reward people and institutions for adhering to the status quo. And there are risks in trying something new.

In her talk, Bridwell-Mitchell gave an overview of her ongoing work that examines how schools are partnering with outside organizations, and how those partnerships might be affecting outcomes.

In building a database of the characteristics of partnerships, Bridwell-Mitchell said she found herself asking more and more questions about how partnerships were formed, the different needs different types of schools tried to meet with these partnerships, and how those partnerships were or were not helping schools improve performance.

She is currently developing the research for an upcoming paper. Throughout her talk, Bridwell-Mitchell encouraged Penn GSE students and faculty to further probe issues raised by the data. That feedback, she said, will help advance her own thinking on the subject.

As part of her visit, sponsored by the Dean’s office and HEARD: The Hub for Equity, Anti-Oppression, Research, and Development, Bridwell-Mitchell also met with Penn GSE students to discuss life in academia.