George Mason University: Mason doctoral student in education policy receives prestigious grant to help fund dissertation

George Mason University doctoral student Elizabeth Davis has received a prestigious American Educational Research Association (AERA) dissertation grant to help her research on newcomer schools in the United States.

Newcomer schools are generally smaller public schools or programs within public schools specifically targeted to meet the needs of recent immigrants in a community.

“I believe we should be having conversations in the education community about newcomer schools, and I am hoping my dissertation research helps in furthering those conversations,” Davis said.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the AERA Grants Program provides graduate students with research funding, along with professional development and training. The program says it “supports highly competitive dissertation research using rigorous quantitative methods to examine large-scale, education-related data.”

The grant of $25,000 will help Davis, who is pursuing a PhD in education policy, in her extensive research of more than 200 newcomer schools throughout the United States and the services provided to them.

“In education policy, we are trying to elevate the importance of equity in education. Newcomer education should be central to discussions on educational equity, and this award puts the stamp on it to say this an important issue.”

Davis’s dissertation is intended to address the limited understanding of newcomer schools by analyzing their major characteristics, trends, and educational outcomes. In addition, Davis intends to analyze the relationship between the growth of newcomer schools and migration patterns and identify the policy conditions that support or hinder these schools in districts experiencing growth of immigrant populations.

Davis said she wanted to study newcomer schools to understand better whether they were serving the immigrant population effectively and whether they were getting the resources they needed to do so.

“There’s a high need for targeted services to help newcomers succeed,” Davis said. “We haven’t seen much in the way of national studies on how schools dedicated to educating newcomers are doing.”

Matthew P. Steinberg, director of EdPolicyForward and an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development and the Schar School of Policy and Government, and Davis’ dissertation advisor, said that establishing foundational knowledge through studies like Davis’ dissertation “is central to understanding the policy and decision-making that shapes the development and sustainability of newcomer schools.”

Davis, born in Lexington, Kentucky, received her undergraduate degree in government and politics from University of Maryland. She worked in education before deciding to pursue her PhD at Mason.

“Beth’s dissertation research on newcomer schools shines a critical lens on the education of immigrant students during a particularly consequential point in the history of the United States,” said Steinberg. “The faculty in the education policy program at Mason are deeply supportive of Beth’s research and very proud of her receipt of the AERA dissertation award.”

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