Jennifer Ash, from left, Charlie Belin, Jeffery Dean, Anna Jacob and Martin Lueken began their studies this fall in the doctor of education policy program in the College of Education and Health Professions.
Education Reform Welcomes Second Doctoral Class
New students seeking the doctor of education policy at the University of Arkansas come from near and far to the program that began its second year this fall.
The department of education reform received approval to offer the doctorate late in 2008 and enrolled the first cohort last year. The program almost doubled its enrollment with the new class this fall, adding five new students to the first class of six.
"We have another fantastic group of students this year," said Jay P. Greene, the head of the department of education reform. "They all have practical experience teaching along with degrees in fields other than education, ranging from physics to comparative literature. And, most importantly, they bring a passionate interest in improving the public education system."
The students, their backgrounds and plans:
- Jennifer Ash of Fayetteville, bachelor's degree in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
During college, Ash worked with Breakthrough Collaborative in Norfolk, Va., a network of summer programs that uses high school and college students to teach a demanding, college-prep curriculum to high-achieving, low-income students. After college, she joined Miami Teaching Fellows, a subsidiary of the New Teacher Project, teaching seventh- and eighth-grade advanced and gifted language arts in a high-need school in Miami.
In August 2009, Ash began working as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for Apple Seeds Inc., a Fayetteville-based nonprofit organization that aims to implement a nutrition education program in the local public schools.
When working as a teacher, she realized that many of the challenges she faced were rooted in larger policy issues.
"As I read more about the field, I became convinced pursuing a doctorate in education policy was the necessary route to effect lasting change in the American education system," she said.
She heard about the Arkansas program when she attended a lecture given by the founder of the KIPP charter schools and contacted the department afterward.
"During my visit, I was so invigorated after speaking with the professors and learning of their impressive accomplishments in the field that I decided to apply right away, even though I had been planning to attend law school the following year," Ash said.
- Charlie Belin of McGehee, bachelor's degrees in natural science and communication/journalism from the University of Arkansas at Monticello and a master's degree in science education from Texas Wesleyan University.
She taught biology and chemistry, both honors and regular classes, integrated physics and chemistry, and dance for six years in Fort Worth Independent School District. Class discussions during her master's program as well as her experiences as a teacher sparked her interest in pursuing a doctorate in education policy. She has been gathering data on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills test for several years and may use some of that data during her doctoral program.
Belin decided to come to the Arkansas program in part because her father always wanted one of his children to attend college at the Fayetteville campus, but she also believes the education reform program will be a good fit.
"This way I can make my dad proud after all these years, but I think I have also found the right Ph.D. program for me," she said.
- Jeffery Dean of Alma, bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Arkansas.
Dean worked as a research associate for the department of education reform for two years before applying to the doctoral program. He formerly taught in the university's physics department and at Kaplan Inc. in Fayetteville and Haas Hall Academy in Farmington.
He was working on education policy issues as an intern at the Heritage Foundation in Washington when his dad told him a family friend, Reed Greenwood, suggested he look into going to work for the education reform department. Greenwood was dean of the College of Education and Health Professions at the time and has since returned to the college's faculty, joining the education reform department.
Dean has worked with faculty studying school voucher programs and is considering doing further research on school choice.
"I would like to learn more about the effect school choice programs have on parental motivation," he said.
- Anna Jacob of Waterford City, Ireland, bachelor's degree in education from St. Patrick's College in Dublin and a master's degree in education through the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame.
Jacob taught fourth grade for two years at an under-resourced Catholic school in Pinellas Park, Fla., and she previously taught first and fifth grades at St. Paul's Boys' National School in Waterford, Ireland. She designed and implemented an after-school language club for English language learners at the school and liaised with the Waterford School Completion Program to organize participants for after-school activities such as golf, counseling, reading groups and self-esteem classes.
She wants to pursue a doctorate in education policy for the opportunity to conduct research, analyze policy and work as part of a team. She heard about the program at Arkansas from former Notre Dame classmates who enrolled last year. She also read Jay Greene's book, "Education Myths." She is interested in research issues related to teaching in disadvantaged areas.
- Martin Lueken of St. Louis, bachelor's degree in physical education from Eastern Illinois University and a master's degree in economics from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Lueken worked in Japan for five years as an assistant language teacher in public junior high schools and elementary schools in Yashio City. On his return to the United States, he worked as a teaching assistant in the Mathematics Technology Learning Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he helped students with algebra, trigonometry and calculus. As a research assistant for Michael Podgursky, professor of economics at Missouri, Lueken helped with analysis of teacher pensions and charter school effects. Podgursky told Lueken about the Arkansas program.
His experiences teaching in Japan shifted his interests from sports medicine to education, and he decided to pursue a doctorate to develop advanced analytical tools for policy analysis in K-12 education. He is interested in analyzing charter school entry-exit behavior to determine whether accountability is effectively implemented, or whether some underperforming schools are held open too long. He is also interested in education finance, where the current economic crisis is causing many states to divert resources from some areas in education to cover the massive liabilities accrued due to defined benefit pension plans for teachers."Analyzing these pension systems is a red-hot area now and one in which Dr. (Robert) Costrell of the (department of education reform) and his collaborator, Dr. Podgursky, have emerged as two of the eminent experts in the nation," Lueken said.