By Saroja Warner, Director of Educator Development and Diversity at WestEd, and Nathan Jones, Associate Professor of Special Education and Education Policy at Boston University
A Message from the SREE 2022 Conference Program Co-Chairs
There are watershed moments, or disturbances, in our nation’s history that have had significant impacts on schooling and our education system. In 2020, two pandemics scourged our nation, creating unrest and turmoil in all aspects of life, including education. The COVID-19 global pandemic illuminated, and exacerbated, inequities in educational opportunities for students. As schooling quickly transitioned universally to virtual environments, the inefficiencies of our education system became apparent: students (and teachers) without access to broad band internet service, access to WiFi, and computers, and teachers ill-equipped to implement effective virtual curriculum, pedagogies, and practices.
Many students who were already disengaged in education offered in physical school buildings disappeared altogether in the virtual learning environments that replaced in-person schooling during the pandemic. And these circumstances have impacted particular students disproportionately: students of color, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, students with different abilities, and English language learners. The second pandemic was triggered by the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, which ignited the global Black Lives Matter movement and played a significant role in shifting the public discourse around race, antiracism, and education.
Within this context, SREE is scheduled to meet in person for the first time since March 2019. In the intervening months since the pandemic began, SREE has held a number of events that have carried forward the tradition of SREE – namely, carrying a torch for the development and use of state-of-the art methods in research on educational effectiveness – and have pushed the boundaries of what it means to do effectiveness research in education. In particular, the SREE 2021 annual meeting and the webinar series on Critical Perspectives in Quantitative Research, co-hosted by SREE, were both met with enthusiasm. And each have raised essential questions about how research on educational effectiveness could be leveraged to combat structural inequities.
It’s hard to imagine coming back to Washington, DC, and carrying on business-as-usual. We see this year’s conference as a necessary and timely opportunity to continue the conversation that SREE began in earnest last year. To carry forward last year’s urgency and commit as an organization to building a research agenda that advances racial equity and centers underserved communities. This will take examining our research methodologies and epistemologies to promote ways of doing research that are culturally responsive and sustaining. It will take making space for researchers of color and those with diverse cultural backgrounds to inform new approaches and honor ways of knowing that have not been traditionally valued in academia. Finally, it will take listening to communities of color and others underserved by our systems to better understand what is going on in schools right now and what kinds of research are needed. We must engage in reconciliation with communities of color and others underserved by our systems and commit to establishing research partnerships that are truly collaborative and inclusive.
It is fair to say that SREE is in a precarious position. All small research associations are. If we stay the course, we run the risk of marginalizing ourselves within the broader landscape of educational research. And so, we ask how SREE as a community can and should respond at this point in time.