2018 IDEA Award Winner Q&A: Rose Sebastian

Every year, the Curry School of Education awards grant funding to select students as part of the Curry Innovative, Developmental, Exploratory Awards (IDEA) Competition. Funded through Curry’s Research and Development Fund, this grant helps students advance both their careers and the field of education through the development of innovative research. This article is a part of a series that explores the winning 2018 IDEA projects and their potential impact on education.

Program: Curriculum and Instruction
Project: Detracking a High School Social Studies Department: A Case Study of a Teacher Led Initiative

Can you give me a brief overview of what this project is about? 

My capstone will be a qualitative case study of a social studies department at one high school. My goal is to learn how teachers in the department are conceptualizing academic tracking and educational equity. I also want to learn how changes affecting tracking and equity occur within the department.

Why are you passionate about this area of research?

In the United States, students from different backgrounds are offered different educations. Black, Latinx, and low-income students are disproportionately tracked into lower-level courses than white and high-income students. This disproportionate tracking negatively impacts students’ academic outcomes and sense of belonging at school. Teachers within individual schools have the power to make changes within their classrooms and their departments to begin to address this problem. I want to learn more about how, and why, that happens.

Where did the idea for this particular project come from? 

This project builds on a research study I began in the fall of 2017, which focused on an individual teacher at the same high school who has been an outspoken advocate for change to tracking structures.

How did you decide to submit a proposal to the Curry IDEA competition? 

While I was developing the proposal for this research study, a doctoral candidate came to one of my courses and, as part of a broader presentation, described the IDEA competition to us. I immediately decided to apply because the financial support from the IDEA grant can help me pay for high-quality transcription, data analysis software, disseminating my research and reimbursing teachers for their valuable time.

What other people and organizations will be involved? 

While this is an independent project, I’m thankful for the guidance I’ve received from Susan Mintz and Stanley Trent in designing and implementing the study. I’m also grateful for the support of my capstone committee and the support of the high school teachers and administrators for their participation.

What goals do you have for this project?

My hope is that this project will increase our knowledge base about tracking, equity in course enrollment, and about how tracking structures change.

How will the IDEA grant help you achieve those goals?

The IDEA grant is an enormous help as I am doing this project independently, under the supervision of Curry faculty, but not as part of a broader faculty research project.