Research–Practice Partnerships in this Moment in History: COVID-19 & Equity in Education

The seven COVID-19 and Equity in Education (CEE) research practice partnerships (RPPs), hailing from California, Florida, New York, and Washington, are community-based, solutions-focused teams of local educators, community members, and researchers. Their primary work involves the interrogation of lived pandemic experiences, insights, and challenges and the design of responsive research and practices meant to transform the trajectories of historically marginalized students and communities. 

The CEE RPP teams are critically aware of this moment in history and their role in helping to shape the way priority students (i.e., Black and brown students and students experiencing poverty) and their communities experience this moment. With the goal of helping students and communities to fortify themselves should other pandemic-like circumstances or events arise, RPP teams are challenging and interrogating existing equity norms via research—some vetted and published in peer-reviewed journals, some designed and conducted by RPP researchers and other team members, and some grounded in the ethnographic stories of students and community members.

The work of each team is founded upon:

  1. The engagement of diverse stakeholders with lived experiences and/or critical insights that are pivotal to informing the identification of mechanisms to illuminate, interrogate, and address pandemic-specific urgencies and necessities of students and their communities. 
  2. A commitment to improving the educational services and life circumstances of priority students within the pandemic context. 
  3. The use of a community-grounded research approach that integrates the community cultural wealth of the communities from which students originate and in which they reside and prioritizes their perspectives and experiences.

The RPP teams’ unique areas of concentration and commitment span a variety of topics and issues. One RPP team is focused on the advancement of Black Liberation, while another is looking into how to prepare for priority students’ and their families’ belonging and social emotional well-being in a newly diversifying context. Another example is an RPP team’s plans for overcoming the barriers that migrant students planning to attend college face. 

Keeping Together

RPP Network Convening in Chicago, October 2022

Across the past several months, RPP teams have met to solidify their goals and action plans, as well as connect with each other. In October 2022, seven RPP teams and their coaches spent two days networking, reflecting, and making strategic plans for 2023. Despite the dark and lingering realities of the pandemic, these RPP teams showed up with energy and ready to seize the moment. 

During the months that followed, teams got to work turning their dreams into not only action plans but actions, such as:

  • Tapping the CEE literature data base to connect RPP practices with current research;
  • Populating GIS asset maps with local community hotspots;
  • Working with youth to develop interview protocols for future student interviews;
  • Gathering and analyzing data to explore informal hunches and formal hypotheses;
  • Using proven methods for administering surveys and conducting interviews;
  • Designing new methodologies for engaging community members as partners in research; and
  • Piloting SenseMaker, an online crowd-sourcing research tool for collecting ethnographic micro-narratives. 

Over summer 2023, RPP teams took part in two-day mini-retreats with their coaches–in their home states. These retreats came as a response to the RPP teams’ call for blocks of uninterrupted time for reflection, planning, and strategy building for the year ahead. Retreats involved such activities as conference attendance, campus site visits, community action planning sessions, and each RPP team left the retreats with a clearer vision for the 2023-2024 academic year. 

Drawing on Support for a Critical Moment 

The CEE initiative provides RPP teams with support for their work, such as being able to:

  • Access and request literature reviews from a literature library of more than 925 current pandemic studies;  
  • Invite students, families, and other community members to lift their voices and share their pandemic experiences in their own words in the form of ethnographic studies;  
  • Use, independently or with guided support, interactive state-specific GIS asset maps to pinpoint mapped place-based realities and enter new ones (e.g., social vulnerabilities, local assets and more);  
  • Design research studies using an expansive CEE longitudinal database; and
  • Take part in webinars for emerging Black and brown researchers and scholars, the CEE Community of Researchers. These webinars engage researchers and practitioners in equity-focused discussions about pandemic research and ways to make it more accessible, meaningful, and responsive to the needs of priority students and communities.

In short, CEE RPP praxis is built for this moment in history; it is relevant, responsive, sensitive to the pandemic context and the lived realities growing out of it. More importantly, CEE RPP praxis is necessarily committed to advancing equity for historically marginalized students and communities today and into the future.

Tammie Causey
Senior TA Consultant