Meredith Phillips, chair of undergraduate affairs at UCLA Luskin, has received an inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Community-Engaged Research. Phillips will use the $10,000 grant to develop a new undergraduate course that will bring students and local organizations into a research partnership for the benefit of the wider community. Titled “Making Data Useful for Educational Improvement,” Phillips’ course will equip students to analyze student and staff survey data from elementary, middle and high schools, and present those data to educators and administrators who are seeking to improve their schools. “Community-engaged research creates outstanding learning opportunities for undergraduate students, advances the research of our faculty and benefits our community,” Chancellor Gene Block said in announcing the six faculty recipients of the new award, which is co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Community Learning. In the coming year, the award recipients will work together to establish guidelines for elevating the learning experience for undergraduates. Their courses, which will be offered in the 2020-21 or 2021-22 academic years, will cover a range of issues, including minority communities, health disparities, environmental justice and education. “This award recognizes faculty for their community-engaged research efforts and at the same time creates a new set of community-engaged course offerings for undergraduates,” said Phillips, associate professor of public policy and sociology. “This first set of courses is just the beginning of what I expect will eventually be an extensive suite of courses, across a wide range of disciplines, that will connect UCLA students’ research training with the needs of our local community.”
Gary Orfield, distinguished research professor of education, law, political science and urban planning, was cited a Christian Science Monitor article about continued segregation in elementary and secondary schools. Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project, said elementary and secondary schools are becoming more unequal without the pressure of civil rights requirements. “The problem isn’t curing itself,” he said.
Low-income minority boys’ health improves when they are in high-performing school environments, according to a recent study by UCLA Luskin Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber and co-authors from the David Geffen School of Medicine. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, used admission lotteries for high-performing public charter schools in Los Angeles and surveyed 1,270 students who applied. Over a four-year period, their behavior was tracked. Among boys, the study found less marijuana use, less truancy, more time spent studying, greater teacher support for college and less school mobility. The study did not find any significant health improvements among girls. “Future studies targeting school-based social networks and school culture … can begin to identify the pathways through which to build healthier schools,” the researchers said. They concluded that investing in higher-quality public education will reflect positively on the students’ health. The study, titled “Assessment of Exposure to High-Performing Schools and Risk of Adolescent Substance Use: A Natural Experiment,” was co-authored by the School of Medicine’s Rebecca Dudovitz and Paul Chung. News coverage of the report appeared in U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider and other publications.