I have spent this summer working with Dr. Rand Quinn of the Graduate School of Education and his research group on their examination of school choice, gentrification, and educational equity. My research for the summer was initially intended to be on how pre-K parents choose schools for their children in gentrifying neighborhoods. My primary responsibility was to create a literature review on a relevant sub-topic of my choosing, which the research team would use as a jumping-off point for their larger project. However, as the summer progressed and I worked more on my review, we realized that there were more relevant questions to be asked about school choice in general, especially in terms of its effect on racial integration.
In the end, my review examined the viability of market-based school choice mechanisms as solutions for segregation in the school system. Market-based reforms—in this case, charter schools and voucher programs—hold that equity in the school system will increase if an educational “free market” is created. My review, however, found that this is not the case, and market-based choice mechanisms almost always increase segregation along multiple axes because. Going forward, I will be working with the rest of the research group and Dr. Quinn to write a paper for publication based on my review.
Beyond being a subject that is very relevant today given the current administration’s support of both charter schools and vouchers and a subject that I personally am interested in, my experience this summer has given me several valuable skills and new insights into the world of research. I strengthened my ability to understand and write academic texts, synthesize sources, and create my own argument. During the times in the summer where we weren’t sure what to do next or what our project was even focusing on, I learned about the hardest part of research—coming up with a question to find the answer to. Finally, working on this project solidified my long-term interest in research and in the field of education, which is invaluable as I continue my undergraduate career.