Prof. Janelle Scott appointed Robert C. and Mary Catherine Birgeneau Distinguished Chair in Educational Disparities

January 17, 2019

GSE Professor Janelle Scott, whose research examines the relationship between education, policy, and equality of opportunity, has been appointed the Robert C. and Mary Catherine Birgeneau Distinguished Chair in Educational Disparities.

Scott has been a faculty member at UC Berkeley since 2008 and a longtime leader of the Race, Diversity and Educational Policy Cluster at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society (HIFIS), initially co-chairing the Cluster with Professor Na’ilah Nasir.

The Birgeneau Distinguished Chair in Educational Disparities is named for retired UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and his wife Mary Catherine Birgeneau, who were advocates for increasing supports and representation for faculty and students of color.

“The Chair allows us to honor that legacy while also looking to our current and future challenges related to race, opportunity, and education policy. It has been wonderful to be a part of HFIS’s development. I am honored to have this work formalized with the Birgeneau Distinguished Chair, and look forward to continued dynamic collaboration across departments at UC Berkeley,” said Scott, who holds dual appointments in the Graduate School of Education, and the African American Studies Department.

She plans to continue developing the course Research Advances in Race, Diversity, and Education Policy, which highlights the scholarship of faculty members in the Cluster, and draws from research at the cutting edge of theory and empirical investigation, she said.

“I hope to continue bringing speakers to campus whose work insists that we confront issues of racial segregation, privatization, and economic inequalities that shape the kinds of unequal school systems, schools, and classrooms we have across the country. We are also looking forward to convening meetings with researchers, practitioners, and community members to engage these issues.”

As chair of the Race, Diversity and Educational Policy Cluster, Scott plans to elevate the cluster’s work by fostering and further strengthening the multidisciplinary research that investigates and intervenes on educational inequality.

“As we argued in our 2017 HIFIS policy report, such work must be focused on K-12 schooling, and framed with an understanding that growing economic inequality manifests itself in education policy in core ways: hyper segregation of students by race, income, and language in increasingly underfunded districts.

“This disinvestment results in high rates of teacher turnover, and in local polices that do not serve children who deserve more, and who would otherwise thrive. Universalistic, race-blind approaches often mask the specific needs of counties, districts, and local schools. And public education is facing challenges from well-funded efforts to privatize teacher preparation, school district governance, and the operation of schools themselves.
“We must understand how these efforts are situated in the troubling history of racial segregation and economic inequity in public schools, even as we offer a vision for a more democratic, equitable, and excellent system of public schooling.”

Scott earned her undergraduate degree in Political Science at Berkeley, and her doctorate in Education Policy from UCLA. Her work has appeared in several edited books and journals, including the Peabody Journal of Education; Educational Policy; American Educational Research Journal; and Harvard Educational Review. She is the editor of School choice and diversity: What the evidence says (2005, Teachers College Press).