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Garcia tapped as Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow

July 03, 2008

Assistant professor David Garcia has been selected as a 2008-2009 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow to research the convergence of school choice and school accountability with the diversification of the Latino population in the United States.

Garcia, of the Division of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, is one of 20 fellows selected this year from a pool of more than 150 applicants. He will receive a $55,000 award to support salary replacement and research expenses for the two-year fellowship.

In Arizona, school choice offers students the opportunity to attend public, charter or private schools. Garcia says there is a preponderance of evidence that school choice also leads to self-segregation, but these studies used only African-American and white students in the framework.

“There has been no consistent stream of research on Latinos and school choice,” he says. “The research does reveal that students who leave traditional public schools tend to attend charter schools with others of the same race. Latinos, however, do not.”
Garcia says Latino parents have strong opinions that could shape school policy, but previous school choice studies don’t reveal their viewpoint on the issues.

“Dr. Garcia’s study to examine the diversification of the Hispanic community and the union of accountability and school choice policies has the potential to provide critically important information for Arizona and the nation,” says Stafford Hood, associate dean for research with the Fulton College. “The steady and rapid increase of the Hispanic population in major urban areas in the Midwest, South and East Coast – where they had not typically been present in large numbers – increases the potential of Dr. Garcia’s research to inform state and federal policy-makers. His work has consistently been of high quality, and many of us eagerly await what we might learn from this particular project.”

Garcia intends to investigate further the trends associated with school choice, taking into account that Latinos differ from other minority groups in that they have assimilated over generations and are more likely to live in mixed-race neighborhoods. At the same time, a new influx of immigrants is changing community dynamics nationwide. This shift is largely unexplored in the area of school choice, Garcia says.

“Accountability and choice have gone hand-in-hand with groups of people dissatisfied with public schools,” he says. “One outlet has been school choice – giving people an opportunity to go elsewhere.”

But in a previous survey of Arizona parents on school choice, Garcia oversampled Latino parents and found that they are more likely to be dissatisfied with the school choices available to them. They also are more likely to support harsher accountability measures.

“Choice is healthy,” he says. “Choice is good for the system. But we need to keep in mind that we need to have accountability in choice as well. Latino parents are less likely to believe they have good choices for their children. They are more willing to take more drastic, heavy-handed actions with regard to improving schools.

“Understanding where these trends may go is important. The argument in my papers is that understanding how they are going to shape the debate on school choice and accountability could foreshadow what’s going to happen nationally. Arizona now looks like what many states will look like in the future.”

Garcia, whose professional experience includes extensive work in education policy development and implementation, previously served as Arizona’s associate superintendent of public instruction before joining the faculty in the Fulton College in 2004.

The fellowship is funded by a grant to the academy from the Spencer Foundation. The Spencer fellowships are the oldest source of support for education research, nationally or internationally, for recent recipients of the doctorate. Garcia also will receive professional development as well as interact and work with the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation.

“I’m looking forward to participating in the next couple years,” Garcia says, adding that the most exciting part will be when he presents his research to NAE.

Verina Palmer Martin,
(480) 965-4911
Mary Lou Fulton College of Education