~250 Words

Photo courtesy of Stephen Melkisethian via Flickr.
Education activists lack resources for dealing with burnout. Photo by Stephen Melkisethian via Flickr.

Social justice activists are susceptible to emotional exhaustion from their work. Because of this, education researchers Paul Gorski and Cher Chen were interested in learning about supports that could better sustain social justice education advocates, which could thereby better sustain social justice educational movements.

Noting a lack of research on the burnout of activists working for educational justice, they conducted a qualitative study of 14 social justice education activists (for whom activism was not their paid work) to examine the symptoms and impact of burnout as well as the resources available for coping with and recovering from burnout.  

Through interviews, the authors found that symptoms of burnout were high, including sustained emotional and psychological exhaustion, chronic physical ailments, and hopelessness. Because there were few sources of support for addressing burnout, these activists either disengaged or almost quit their respective movements. Particularly, activists of color experienced racism within the movement, which hastened their burnout. Additionally, activists felt guilty if they took time for self-care or talked about burnout due to the culture of martyrdom promoted within educational activist spaces. These social justice education advocates desired more resources for support to help sustain their activism.

The authors assert that the well-being of activists is vital to the health of social justice movements. They recommend open dialogue within social justice education movements about burnout, its symptoms, and resources for support.

You can read the full article here:

Gorski, Paul C., and Cher Chen. 2015. “Frayed All Over:” The Causes and Consequences of Activist Burnout Among Social Justice Education Activists. Educational Studies, 51(5): 385-405.

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How history teachers talk about the past influences students’ understanding of its connection to the present. Photo via The Daily Herald.

The “Black Lives Matter” movement has reinstated racial relations as a leading topic of national conversation. Yet the U.S. is not alone in its struggles to account for a long history of racial oppression nor in employing seemingly race-neutral discourses to deny the ongoing existence of racism. To explore how individuals are socialized into accepting these views in post-apartheid South Africa, Chana Teeger takes an in-depth look at what goes on in 9th grade history classes.

Teeger observed classrooms daily for five months, analyzed notes distributed by teachers, and interviewed 170 teachers and students about how and why children are taught to disregard the lasting effects of apartheid. She found that teachers told “both sides of the story” to prevent race-based conflict in the classroom. In these “color-blind” lessons, teachers downplayed the racialized coding of victims and perpetrators by emphasizing that not all whites were perpetrators and not all blacks were victims. As one teacher explained, when race denotes neither culpability nor victimhood, students are less likely to make claims about racial inequality which could lead to classroom hostility.

Teeger argues that teachers’ avoidance of class discussions about who benefited from the de jure segregation of apartheid discourages students from seeing the continuity between the past and present. Further, it delegitimizes black students’ claims about racism in school and assuages white students’ feelings of guilt and shame. The use of these lessons helps to reproduce ideologies that contribute to racial privilege for dominant groups.

You can read the full article here:

Teeger, Chana. 2015. “Both Sides of the Story”: History Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa. American Sociological Review, 80(6), 1175-1200.


Photo via Roy Blumenthal.
School punishment is one explanation for the racial achievement gap that is often overlooked. Photo via Roy Blumenthal.

Racial achievement gaps in the U.S. are stunning. According to 2015 NCES data, 43% of White 8th graders were proficient in math, while only 13% of Black students and 19% of Hispanic students tested at this level. A similar gap exists for reading, with 44% of White 8th grade students testing proficient, 21% of Hispanic students, and only 16% of Black students. While scholars offer numerous explanations for racial achievement gaps, Edward Morris and Brea Perry explore one explanation that is often overlooked: school punishment.

Morris and Perry use the Kentucky School Discipline Study (KSDS), which includes school records and supplementary data from parents in a large, urban public school district, to determine if school suspension increases the racial achievement gap in math and reading scores. Their sample included 16,248 students in grades 6 through 10, from 17 schools, over a period of three years. The authors test the association of race and suspensions, measure change in test scores over time, and predict test scores based on early and repeated suspensions.

The authors find that African American and Latino students are more likely to be suspended than Whites and Asians in the same school, and that suspensions–even just one–are related to a lower achievement growth rate over time. Finally, the authors determine that punishment accounts for approximately one-fifth of Black-White differences in test scores. Thus, the racial achievement gap is partially explained by a disproportionate use of school punishment for Black and Latino students.

Read the full article here:

Edward W. Morris, and Brea L. Perry, The Punishment Gap: School Suspension and Racial Disparities. Social Problems, 2016.

female teacher double helix
Having more female high school teachers in STEM fields may foster girls’ success in math and science. Photo via Masterfile.

Women and African Americans have made major gains in social position in the U.S., but racial and gender disparities in STEM occupations remain persistent. A  U.S. Department of Commerce 2011 report notes that while women hold almost half of all jobs in the U.S., they hold just 24% of STEM jobs. A 2013 Census report noted that in 2011 11% of the workforce was black while only 6% of STEM workers were black.

Stearns and colleagues wanted to understand how high school context influences students’ post-high school intentions. In addition, they sought to understand how the racial and gender composition of math and science teachers pre-college might influence students’ choice of college major.

The researchers followed 16,300 college-bound North Carolina public school students from seventh grade through college graduation and analyzed how the racial and gender makeup of the teacher population in middle and high schools affected students’ major declaration and degree field. They found that a greater proportion of female math and science teachers increased the probability that a young woman declares a STEM major and graduates with a STEM degree.  This relationship did not exist for men or for African American students.

So, in other words, female teachers in science and math can transcend traditional associations between success in those fields and masculinity, and may push girls to challenge these stereotypes. For young women who pursue STEM degrees, pre-college experiences are an important influence on career aspirations.

You can read the full article here:

Elizabeth Stearns,, Martha Cecilia Bottía, Eleonora Davalos, Roslyn Mickelson, Stephanie Moller, & Lauren Valentino. (2016). Demographic Characteristics of High School Math and Science Teachers and Girls’ Success in STEM. Social Problems, 63(1), 87-110.

Despite their broad interests, nearly half of Stanford and Harvard grads choose just three careers. Photo via cdn.sheknows.com.

Elite college students have widely varying interests and aspirations, right? So, how do you explain nearly half of Harvard and Stanford’s 2014 graduates choosing to pursue jobs in only three economic sectors: financial services, management consulting, and technology? To answer this question and better understand how upper-tier universities form a pipeline to such a narrow range of prestigious careers, Amy Binder, Daniel Davis, and Nicholas Bloom conducted in-depth interviews with 56 Harvard and Stanford students and recent alumni.

The researchers asked current and former students how they decided on their ultimate career paths. They found that the majority of students experienced anxiety and confusion when beginning college, but quickly understood which options were considered the most prestigious. Largely as a result of on-campus corporate recruitment, students saw finance, consulting, and high-tech jobs as high-status. These perceptions of prestige also led students to distinguish between “high-status” and “ordinary” jobs,  encouraging many to choose high-wealth, high-status occupational sectors.

Binder and her colleagues explain that while the key destinations for “the best and the brightest” have changed, the general processes funneling students toward a small number of occupational sectors are not new. Student career aspirations are driven not only by individual preferences, but by organizations and the people in them. Universities influence students’ occupational trajectories by fostering peer prestige systems based on the meanings students assign to particular jobs. By illuminating how this process works, the researchers help us understand how elite universities may “curtail students’ creativity, leech talent away from other sectors, and contribute to economic and social inequality.” 

You can find the full article here:

Amy J. Binder, Daniel B. Davis, & Nicholas Bloom. (2015). Career Funneling: How Elite Students Learn to Define and Desire ‘‘Prestigious’’Jobs. Sociology of Education, 0038040715610883.

Photo via Kayla Yoegal.
New research shows that digital providers typically charge more, deliver fewer hours of services, and differentiate less than face-to-face tutors.  Photo via Gaggle Speaks.

Digital tutoring in K-12 systems has rapidly emerged as a popular education option. Digital instruction includes the use of digital technology such as computers. Curricular formats range from highly structured and dependent on software to more fluid and dependent on the discretion of a live tutor.The increase in digital tutoring systems has created research demand to understand whether and how these practices are linked to student achievement outcomes.

Burch, Good, and Heinrich examined the digital providers’ role in out-of-school time (OST) tutoring. They completed a mixed-method longitudinal study of federally funded OST tutoring companies in five urban sites over four years and found that these companies had a reach as high as 88% of students eligible for OST tutoring in one district. The study sample included students eligible for OST tutoring under No Child Left Behind. They examined student attendance patterns and the relationship of different digital provider characteristics and access points to the reading and math achievement outcomes of students from low-income families.

They found that digital providers, on average, charged significantly more per hour than non-digital providers and delivered fewer hours of services to students than face-to-face tutoring providers. Further, they found that English language learners and students with disabilities were less likely to realize achievement gains through OST tutoring and that digital providers were often not prepared to differentiate instruction to better serve students with special needs.

They concluded that their findings are suggestive of potentially troubling patterns in access to different types of digital tutoring and that more research is necessary to understand whether treatment in digital tutoring is inequitable. 

You can find the full article here:

Patricia Burch, Annalee Good, & Carolyn HeinrichImproving Access to, Quality, and the Effectiveness of Digital Tutoring in K–12 Education. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 2015.

Sarah Garcia is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies population health and inequality.

Correctional education reduces recidivism and costs less. Photo by Amie Smith.

Free higher education for incarcerated adults continue to be hotly debated. While some argue that it’s unfair to provide GED and college courses to inmates for free, the recent overwhelming success of some state programs has brought renewed attention to the issue. According to a recent NPR feature, only 17 percent of California’s Prison University Project (PUP) participants were reincarcerated within three years, versus 65 percent of all released prisoners. The PUP even has a waiting list. But is California’s success representative of prison programs nationwide?

To answer this question, Lois Davis and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of studies examining the relationship between correctional education participation and inmate outcomes, 1980-2011. They focused on correctional education programs in the U.S. which provided an academic and/or vocational curriculum with a structured instructional component.

Davis and team found that the link between correctional education and lowered rate of reincarceration holds for programs across the U.S., with the overall odds of recidivism being 43 percent lower for individuals educated in prison. Examining  the cost-effectiveness of correctional education, they found that providing corrective education would cost about $1500 less per person than reincarceration. Their findings also suggest that correctional education may increase the rate of post-release employment. Since the U.S. incarceration rate has more than quadrupled in the past 40 years, it is important to invest in the future of inmates as a way to improve the health and wellness of individuals, communities, and ultimately the nation.

You can read the full article here:

Lois M. DavisEvaluating the effectiveness of correctional education: A meta-analysis of programs that provide education to incarcerated adults, Rand Corporation, 2013.

Amy August is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies education, parenting and childhood, sports, and competition.

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Interviews with transgender students suggest ways that schools can be more inclusive. Photo via Courage Campaign.

Despite the increasing visibility of transgender students on college campuses, there is a dearth of research understanding their experiences in the classroom. It is important to understand their needs because instructors may lack preparedness or willingness to foster supportive environments for transgender students. Additionally, some students may be marginalized by campus spaces or policies reinforcing gender binary systems and by rigid gender role behavior of peer groups.

Pryor sought to reduce this knowledge gap by interviewing five self-identified transgender and genderqueer students at a major research university. Pryor wanted to understand how these students experience classroom environments and how these experiences at a research university influence their overall college experience.

Four themes emerged from the interviews. First, the coming out process appeared to provoke anxiety in the students, but they felt more comfortable coming out in smaller classes. Second, students reported feeling disrespected by faculty who were resistant to using chosen gender pronouns or who outed students during attendance in class. While some of the students had affirming interactions, others felt that instructors did not support them in the classroom environment. Third, some students reported positive peer experiences and felt supported while others reported experiencing harassment or feeling dehumanized. Fourth, the course context and campus interactions dictated whether the students felt comfortable. For example, students felt more comfortable in gender studies courses than in a language course where, in teaching gendered pronouns, the instructor continually misgendered the student. Students also found support in services provided by the LGBTQ resource and social justice center and in counseling services. Pryor hopes these findings encourage promotion of institutional policies and practices that are inclusive of the transgender student community.

You can read the full article here:

Jonathan T. PryorOut in the Classroom: Transgender Student Experiences at a Large Public UniversityJournal of College Student Development2015.

Sarah Garcia is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies population health and inequality.

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A growing number of multi-racial students will face new challenges while attending college. Image by Ivy Coach.

Even though the U.S. census shows a growing population of multiracial people, there is a lack of research regarding the experiences of mixed-raced college students. Vast evidence exists regarding the prejudice and discrimination experienced by monoracial minority students. There have also been hints of similar essentializing and exclusionary experiences from the minimal research on multiracial identity formation, development, and challenges. With this in mind, Museus, Sariñana, and Ryan conducted research to determine how mixed-race students cope with prejudice and discrimination.

Interviewing college students at East Coast institutions, the authors found that students used four main coping strategies in response to prejudice and discrimination: 1) educating people about mixed-race identity through informal conversations and formal campus programming; 2) using support networks such as campus clubs and friends; 3) practicing fluidity in their identities by focusing on the features they shared with whichever racial group they were currently with; and 4) averting conflict by avoiding specific places where they might face discrimination or choosing to minimize derogatory comments made by peers.

This research highlights the need for campuses to acknowledge and support the unique experiences of multiracial students by infusing multiracial issues into the curriculum, supporting the situationally fluid identities of students, offering multiracial campus clubs, and providing campus-wide racial and multiracial dialogues, as well as other educational opportunities.

Read the full article here:

Samuel D. MuseusSusan A. Lambe Sariñana, & Tasha Kawamata Ryan, A Qualitative Examination of Multiracial Students’ Coping Responses to Experiences with Prejudice and Discrimination in CollegeJournal of College Student Development, 2015.


Colleen Rost-Banik is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota who studies race, gender, and sexuality in education.

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Photo via College Scholarships.org.

The disparity between students with and without disabilities has been eradicated in high school completion rates. For postsecondary outcomes, however, it remains substantial.  A 2003 report by the National Council on Disability noted that while college attendance for students with disabilities has tripled, these students on average take twice as long to obtain credentials as students without disabilities, and most required disability services.

Barbara Hong wanted to understand how students with disabilities viewed their college experiences to identify issues affecting their postsecondary outcomes. To discover this, she had sixteen students utilizing disability services at a small suburban college journal over 10 weeks about their college experiences.

Hong identified four major themes in the journals: instructors’ perceptions, relationships with advisors, the stress of college, and the quality of support services. First, students often avoided disclosing their disability to instructors out of fear and felt judged for needing accommodations; felt as if instructors perceived them as being less capable; and felt that instructors were insensitive, mistrustful and cynical towards them. Second, most students felt that academic advisors were unresponsive when students requested help, and that they lacked knowledge in advising them regarding coursework. Third, students frequently felt stressed and frustrated due to physical demands or distractions in the classroom and to mental or emotional struggles with accepting their limitations and identities. Finally, negative encounters with the disability personnel assessing eligibility status contributed to some students’ difficulty in advocating for themselves.

Hong concluded that students experience critical barriers and discussion of these will hopefully move higher education administrators to improve service delivery and support for students with disabilities. Appropriate interventions are critical in promoting retention among college students with disabilities.

Read the full article here:

Barbara S. S. Hong. (2015). Qualitative Analysis of the Barriers College Students With Disabilities Experience in Higher Education. Journal of College Student Development, 56(3), 209-226.


Sarah Garcia is a graduate student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota who studies population health and inequality.