Attending unsafe schools can be an especially pernicious aspect of the opportunity gap, particularly for racially minoritized students. Often closely paired with concerns about school safety is school security which is intended to make schools safer but is often linked with increased fear or as part of the school-to-prison pipeline. My work seeks to understand the root causes of why students feel unsafe, how to support students feeling safer, and evaluating the most visible solutions schools adopt in the name of student safety: school security. My research in this area has been supported by the National Institute of Justice Comprehensive School Safety Initiative and the Institute of Education Sciences in the US Department of Education.
High teacher mobility occurs more frequently in schools serving traditionally marginalized and racially minoritized students and further exacerbates the opportunity gap. My research has explored why teachers leave their schools or the profession and how to reduce teacher mobility
Online credit recovery (OCR) refers to online courses students take to make up course credit they did not receive due to course failure. OCR represents a new alternative to the traditional option of repeating a course face-to-face (F2F). OCR has the potential to either be a lifeline for students who have failed courses by increasing their chances of graduating from high school or harm these students by depriving them of high-quality instruction if OCR courses are low quality. My research examines the effects of OCR on students and schools and how to effectively design school-level structures to support equitable OCR implementation. My OCR research has been supported by the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.
My recent work on all three research areas has integrated critical theories as the guiding conceptual framework including critical race theory, QuantCrit, and theories related to White educational spaces.
Peer Reviewed Publications
Article Synopses with Links to Articles
School Safety and Security
Protecting the flock or policing the sheep? Differences in school resource officers' perceptions of threats by school racial composition
(With Benjamin W. Fisher, Ethan Higgins, Aaron Kupchik, F. Chris Curran, Suzanne Overstreet, Bryant Plumlee, & Brandon Coffey)
Social Problems (2022)
This study uses interviews with 73 SROs from two different school districts that encompass schools with a variety of racial compositions. Across both districts, SROs perceived three major categories of threats: student-based, intruder-based, and environment-based threats. However, the focus and perceived severity of the threats varied across districts such that SROs in the district with a larger proportion of White students were primarily concerned about external threats (i.e., intruder-based and environment-based) that might harm the students, whereas SROs in the district with a larger proportion of Black students were primarily concerned with students themselves as threats.
Exclusionary school discipline and delinquent outcomes: A meta-analysis
(With Julie Gerlinger, Joseph H. Gardella, Benjamin W. Fisher, F. Chris Curran, Ethan M. Higgins)
Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2021)
This article synthesizes existing empirical evidence (274 effect sizes from 40 primary studies) examining the relationship between exclusionary discipline and delinquent outcomes, including school misconduct/infractions, antisocial behavior, involvement with the justice system, and risky behaviors. We find exclusionary discipline is an important and meaningful predictor of increased delinquency. These findings indicate exclusionary discipline may inadvertently exacerbate rather than mollify delinquent behaviors.
Kindergarten cop: A case study of how a coalition between school districts and law enforcement led to school resource officers in elementary schools
(with F. Chris Curran & Benjamin W. Fisher)
Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis (In Press)
Adopting school resource officers (SROs) is a popular response to school shootings. Using the advocacy coalition and multiple streams frameworks, we explore how school districts in one county formed a coalition with the Sheriff’s Department, adopting SROs in elementary schools following the Sandy Hook shooting. We describe how this coalition was bound together by shared beliefs on school safety and the goodness of law enforcement. The implementation activities of SROs related to the beliefs of the coalition, focusing on security and relationship building. The beliefs were not uniformly understood by SROs – many interpreted their role to include student discipline and managing behavior of students with disabilities. The findings show the utility of comparing policy adoption processes with implementation activities.
How do interactions with school resource officers predict students’ likelihood of being disciplined and feelings of safety? Mixed-methods evidence from two school districts
(with F. Chris Curran, Aaron Kupchik, & Benjamin W. Fisher)
Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis (2021)
School resource officers (SROs) are common in schools, yet consequences of their presence are poorly understood. This study leveraged mixed-methods data from student surveys and group interviews across twenty-five schools to examine how the frequency of interactions and trust/comfort between students and SROs relates to disciplinary outcomes and feelings of safety. We found no evidence that, in this context, more frequent interactions or differing trust/comfort with SROs increased disciplinary consequences, perhaps because, as students report, SROs tended to not engage in formal discipline. We found that, although SROs were seen as increasing safety, interactions with SROs may have heightened students’ sense of danger, potentially mitigating any benefit to students’ overall feelings of safety. Implications for use of SROs are discussed.
Police ambassadors: Student-police interactions in school and legal socialization
(With Aaron Kupchik, F. Chris Curran, & Benjamin W. Fisher)
Law and Society Review (2020)
In this study, we analyze data from interviews with school police officers as well as focus group data from school staff, parents, and students that shed light on how school police interact with youth. In particular, school police officers discussed their desire to build relationships with students that instill trust in police among students. Importantly, officers discussed how they devote particular attention to imparting these lessons on youth of color and others who may see police in a negative light.
Mass school shootings and the short-run impacts on use of school security measures and practices: National evidence from the Columbine tragedy
(With F. Chris Curran & Benjamin W. Fisher)
Journal of School Violence (2020)
We used regression analysis to examine
the use of seven security measures and practices before and after Columbine. Elementary schools were 16 percentage points more likely to lock exits after Columbine and, over time, were more likely to use visitor sign in procedures.
Why and when do school resource officers engage in school discipline? The role of context in shaping disciplinary involvement
(With F. Chris Curran, Benjamin W. Fisher, & Aaron Kupchik)
American Journal of Education (2019)
Using data from over 50 schools in a county in the southeast, we found although 79% of SROs initially report not being involved in discipline, the majority involve themselves in nuanced ways that are shaped by relationships with school staff, official policies, and the characteristics of students served.
Teacher victimization, turnover, and contextual factors promoting resilience
(with F. Chris Curran & Benjamin W. Fisher)
Journal of School Violence (2018)
We examine the extent to which being threatened or attacked by students predicts higher rates of teacher turnover and whether this relationship differs due to factors that may promote teacher resilience.
Students’ feelings of safety, exposure to violence and victimization, and authoritative school climate
(with Benjamin W. Fisher, F. Chris Curran, F. Alvin Pearman, & Joseph H. Gardella)
American Journal of Criminal Justice (2018)
With data from two nationally representative datasets, this study uses path analysis to examine the relationship between authoritative school climate and feelings of safety, as well as the extent to which this relation is explained by exposure to violence and victimization.
Push or pull: School-level factors that influence teacher mobility in low performing schools
(With Lam Pham, Gary T. Henry, Adam Kho, & Ron Zimmer)
American Educational Research Journal (2021)
Using adaptive conjoint analysis survey design, we examine three types of school attributes that may influence teachers’ employment decisions: fixed school characteristics, structural features of employment, and malleable school processes. We find that teachers express a strong preference for two malleable school processes, administrative support and discipline enforcement, along with a higher salary, a structural feature. Estimates indicate these attributes are 2 to 3 times more important to teachers than fixed school characteristics like prior achievement. We validate our results using administrative data on teachers’ revealed preferences.
Teacher-principal race and teacher satisfaction over time, region
(with Seth B. Hunter)
Journal of Educational Administration (2017)
This paper presents the changing nature of the relationship between principal-teacher race congruence and teacher job satisfaction over time, and reveals that the teacher-principal race congruence has greater salience in the Southern region of the country.
Understanding employee turnover in the public sector: Insights from research on teacher mobility
(with Jason A. Grissom & Jennifer Selin)
Public Administration Review (2016)
We present a conceptual framework for understanding employee turnover that is grounded in economic theories of labor supply and demand, which have formed the foundation of many studies of teacher turnover.
Online Credit Recovery
A choice between second chances: An analysis of how students address course failure
American Journal of Education (2021)
On average, one in five high school students in North Carolina fails at least one core, required course every year. After failure, students have two options to regain course credit: repeat the course face-to-face (F2F) or online credit recovery (OCR). This study seeks to provide descriptive evidence on OCR/F2F enrollment patterns over time and across schools finding OCR has grown in popularity: schools, on average, were as likely to enroll students in OCR as F2F courses by 2015–16. OCR enrollment is associated with a 12 percentage point increase in the
probability of earning course credit over F2F courses, although this could indicate students more likely to earn course credit are assigned to OCR.
At-risk high school students recovering course credits online: What we know and need to know
American Journal of Distance Education (2018)
The existing literature on credit recovery is reviewed in 3 specific areas: the proliferation of credit recovery courses, the student experience in credit recovery courses, and outcomes and impacts of credit recovery.
Critical Quantitative Methods
How administrative data collection and analysis can better reflect racial and ethnic identities
(With Dominique J. Baker)
Review of Research in Education (2020)
We conducted a synthetic review of studies on how to effectively measure race/ethnicity for administrative data purposes and then utilize these measures in analyses. Recommendations based on this synthesis include combining the measure of Hispanic ethnicity with the broader racial/ethnic measure and allowing individuals to select more than one race/ethnicity.
State policy and the educational outcomes of English learner and immigrant students: Three administrative data stories
(with Stella Flores, Toby Park, & Vanessa Coca)
American Behavioral Scientist (2017)
We highlight how state and district longitudinal administrative data sets could be leveraged to provide valuable insight into the experience of English language learner and immigrant students.
Co-creating school innovations: Should self-determination be a component of school improvement?
(with Christopher Redding)
Teachers College Record (2018)
We describe the beliefs held by teachers and teacher leaders during the development and implementation of a locally developed innovation.