This document outlines our vision for the UChicago Consortium’s Research and Engagement Agenda, 2021–25. Four strands of research encompass the agenda: 1) Student Experiences; 2) Curriculum and Instruction; 3) School and District Policies; and 4) Families and Communities as Partners.
Over the next five years, the UChicago Consortium has chosen to pursue an agenda that centers equity and student experience at its core. We believe equitable schools are places where all young people are able to participate fully in learning and have learning environments that are designed to be developmentally appropriate and responsive to their specific needs, assets, and culture. We want to better understand how students are experiencing the multifaceted education system as it is, and how schools and the district can foster equitable environments while operating under a system that produces inequitable outcomes. Due to the pandemic, in the first 12–18 months, research questions will likely focus on student engagement, experiences with remote learning, and the transition to in-person school. What the new normal will look like is not apparent yet but must figure into our research. Consequently, the Research and Engagement Agenda encompasses studies of the current emergency conditions as well as important educational questions with a scope which goes beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Equity concerns have also been raised regarding educational research and its role in exacerbating deficit framings of racial groups. Researchers commonly produce findings that show racial disparities in educational attainment, for example, while not providing the historical and contextual background about the systems that have created and fostered such disparities. Over the past year, the Consortium published its first Statement on Equity, recognizing that equitable schools are places where all young people are able to participate fully in learning and that inequitable outcomes are a product of existing systems of oppression.
Our work will feel incomplete and insufficient unless it also supports the social justice work of organizations focused on addressing structural inequity. To realize our goals within this Research and Engagement Agenda, we commit to:
- Conducting research projects that more directly address the structural causes of inequity and question the assumptions behind racist systems;
- Increasing our partnerships with organizations who are working against institutional racism;
- Engaging in regular and sustained conversations with our partners and stakeholders about what racial justice requires from us as researchers and as an organization; and
- Involving families, students, and other stakeholders more directly in the design and dissemination of studies.