Spotlight on the 2022 CME Summer Research Fellows

The CME Summer Research Fellows with The Learning Partnership executive team.
From Left to Right: Sangkyoo Kang, Regina Winters, Teresa Lansford, Dung Pham,
Randi McGee-Tekula (vice president), Danqing Yin, Aaron Park, Steven McGee (president)

The Chicago Public Schools leads the nation in computer science education. Each year 14,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students graduate each year with at least one year of computer science. This the result of a computer science graduation requirement that CPS enacted in 2016. In summer 2022, The Learning Partnership hosted six summer research fellows funded by the CME foundation to evaluate the impact of the computer science graduation requirement policy on computer science education in CPS. The preliminary results of the fellowship were presented at a celebration event, which also included the founders of the Chicago CS4All movement sharing the history of the landmark decision and teachers, administrators, and students sharing their experiences with computer science in CPS. In this blog, the fellows each share reflections on their experiences with the fellowship program.  

Sangkyoo Kang, Penn State University

The LP Summer Research Fellowship gave me a rare opportunity to analyze school district data on the computer science curriculum. I had an enriching experience working with people committed to realizing their vision of increasing the quality and equity of CS education. The intense two months were truly rewarding as a policy analyst. Through engaging in the process of evaluating a real policy in Chicago schools, I was able to understand how rigorous research can affect real change in our public education.

Regina Winters, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

            Sign me up for a chance to work with big data and help a school district! Those were my first thoughts when I read The Learning Partnership’s (LP) Summer Fellowship posting after my advisor sent out the call to students in my Ph.D. program. Newly graduated from the Educational Leadership program at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, I wanted to continue working on applied research projects but was unsure how to get started. A small part of me wondered if maybe my dissertation research was a swan song or that without the push of my faculty that I could not apply the solid research foundation I gained from my program. The fellowship provided an opportunity to work independently and engage with a group of researchers eager to help delve into a vital education question. By the end of the summer, to my surprise, confidence in my ability to engage in meaningful research returned, and enthusiasm for future applied projects sky rocked.  

            What happened to create the change? From the start, the members of The Learning Partnership were kind and welcoming. You could tell that they saw each fellow as a contributing scholar and were anxious to get us started on the data. They built in several research check-ins and mentor opportunities to talk with my fellow fellows and established evaluation researchers. The lessons of planning and supported writing I encountered in my program echoed throughout this experience. And due to the type of data and the research question, I also learned a new analysis technique, which was an unexpected bonus.  

            Were there hard days? Of course. Some days, the data looked strange, a different type of data was needed, or I couldn’t remember how to complete commands in STATA. Working with public service data is challenging and sometimes messy. To get through those days, I reached out to our mentors, LP staff members, or the other fellows to get energized by their progress or talk through an issue. The camaraderie we built around the project reminded me of those famous graduation words, “welcome to the community of scholars.” The Learning Partnership thoughtfully built a community of early career scholars connected by data and by an example of community-based research. I am grateful to have worked on the project. I am hoping that the summer work will lead to additional publications. I would recommend that other early scholars engage with The Learning Partnership. It was a challenging, stretching summer, but I gained confidence and a network of gifted scholars that are also new friends.  

Teresa Lansford, Texas Tech University

I appreciated the opportunity this summer to apply the skills I have been developing in graduate school to such a meaningful, real-world context. What I love most about data analysis is digging and exploring opportunities for student growth. I had the chance to do that this summer when analyzing the impact of CPS’s CS graduation requirement on students with disabilities. I discovered much for CPS to celebrate and a few opportunities to provide added supports for student success. I appreciated being paired with a methods mentor who lent his perspective and guidance while giving me the freedom to explore the data as I felt best. This was a wonderful opportunity for growth and I learned a great deal this summer about data analysis, partnerships, and working on a large project with a tight deadline. There is much that I will be able to apply to my future work.

Dung Pham, Western Michigan University

This summer, I worked as a Summer Research Fellow at The Learning Partnership. The position provided me an exceptional growth experience and an excellent opportunity to apply what I have learned in my graduate program to a real-world problem. As a PhD candidate of Evaluation, Measurement and Research and an advocate of evidence-based practice, I deeply appreciated the opportunity to help evaluate the impact of the CPS computer science graduation requirement on broadening participation in computer science to inform policies and practice. I was immensely impressed by the close research-practice partnership between CAFÉCS and CPS and the collective efforts to foster equity in computer science. The opportunity to work with and be mentored by renowned experts on STEM education and research and be part of a team of talented researchers at The Learning Partnership during the fellowship will broaden my horizons as I am wrapping up my graduate studies and preparing for the next stage of my career in education research and evaluation.

Danqing Yin, University of Kansas

I wandered in the city of Chicago, the home to skyscrapers worldwide. Talented engineers, designers, and scientists impacted the city’s landscape heavily. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969), one of the most influential architects of the 20th-century example, was known for his role in the development of “modernism.” His minimalist style and aphorism “less is more” are still widely used. My summer research job with the Learning Partnerships rhymed with such ethos. Things went on efficiently, concisely, and exquisitely. As a fellow, my report reflects the efforts of the Chicago Public Schools district (CPS) to expand computer science education at the high school level. I helped the team examine how access to computer science changed over time, especially in CPS high schools from 2012-13 through 2020-21. My overall experience of the program has been unique: from attending the information session of the fellowship, interviewing to be a fellow, meeting the team, learning from external mentors, presenting at the culmination event of CAFECS, exploring the WeWork space, and dining at the Elephant & Castle with the group. I sincerely appreciate all the considerate arrangements, and I grew so much with all the great experiences with the program. Thanks for having me! Stay tuned for the full report!

Aaron Park, Saint Louis University

Serving as a quantitative research fellow for The Learning Partnership over the summer has been an extremely valuable experience for a developing education policy researcher such as myself. My doctoral program trained me with conceptual and foundational knowledge of quantitative research methods. The fellowship expanded those learning opportunities by helping directly apply those research skills and knowledge onto real world policy issues. Working with valuable student-level dataset from Chicago Public Schools, collaborating with other colleagues to brainstorm research ideas and methods, having conversations about data with stakeholders, receiving valuable feedback from distinguished faculty mentors, and disseminating the research product to diverse audience using appropriate mediums all expedited my growth as an education policy researcher. All stakeholders’ aligned vision and mission to provide highest-quality, equitable education for all students, with particular attention to those historically marginalized populations of students, are extremely motivating to continue this work in education policy and research-practitioner partnerships.