2015-17: The Future of Public Education

Public education in the U.S plays an indispensable role in promoting citizenship, socializing immigrants, boosting social mobility and equality, and providing career and vocational preparation. But there are many challenges: diversion of resources to other programs, inequities in opportunities, and struggles over curriculum and funding. This theme discussed the possibilities and pitfalls in the future of public education.

Focus areas

  • Stratification of educational opportunity—Declining resources to education, increasing inequality and the re-segregation of communities are just some of the factors.
  • Public higher education—We’ll discuss the core purpose of higher ed, the student debt crisis, and the role of private philanthropy.
  • Public primary and secondary education—There is a significant debate regarding the merits of national standards, a common core and equity. How does education intersect with public fiscal issues and growing inequality?
  • Education in Oregon—Oregon’s public education system is under great stress and upheaval. We’ll explore the causes and effects of disinvestment in education.
  • Transitions between secondary and post-secondary—Many are examining ways to ease or speed up the transitions between educational institutions and career. Oregon has set ambitious goals that will affect all of public education.


Wayne Morse Chair

Amy Stuart Wells
Amy Stuart Wells is a professor of sociology and education and the coordinator of Policy Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her writing focuses on issues of race and education, specifically educational policies such as school desegregation, school choice, charter schools, and tracking, and how they affect opportunities for students of color. Her books include Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation’s Graduates (2009) and Stepping Over the Color Line: African American Students in White Suburban Schools (1997). During her residency in fall 2016, Wells taught a class in the School of Education and gave a public address.

Resident Scholars

Charise Cheney
Blacks Against Brown: The Black Anti-Integration Movement in Topeka, Kansas, 1941-1954
Charise Cheney is an associate professor of in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Oregon and an expert in African-American popular and political culture. During her time as Resident Scholar, Cheney will continue research into the Black anti-integration movement in Topeka, Kansas, during the 1940s and 50s. The project documents that no consensus existed among Black Topekans over segregated schools in the years before Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In a city that ultimately made equality synonymous with integration, local NAACP activists worked to dismantle all-black schools while many Black parents and teachers defended them as critical resources promoting economic opportunity and racial pride. This project reveals the little known local stories behind the Supreme Court case that became a national symbol of civil rights.

Michael Musheno 
Youth as Agents of Change: Tracking Freedom, Trust, and Control in Public Education
Michael Musheno is a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law and the faculty director for Undergraduate Legal Studies. As a Resident Scholar, Musheno will focus on a project that will identify youth who are social activists and indigenous conflict managers on the campuses of public high schools in Eugene and Portland. It will focus on the social attributes and characteristics of activist youth, the engagement of teachers in incubating social activists, and the significance of the school culture in facilitating these dynamics. The findings will serve as a basis for building the curriculum of the interdisciplinary Agents of Change Academic Residential Community that opened to first-year students at the University of Oregon in fall 2017.

Project Grants

Cara DiMarco (LCC Women in Transition)—for the Trauma Informed Learning Project
Community Alliance for Public Education—for a public dialogue on standardized testing and alternative visions for assessment.
KLCC FM—for monthly in-depth public radio features on the future of public education
LCC Foundation—to support CoderDojo, a free coding club for young people.
UO Anthropology Professor Lynn Stephen—to develop an immigration education curriculum on citizen children with undocumented parents
Parenting Now!—to purchase and distributing approx. 500 English and Spanish children’s books to at-risk families
Tom and Henry Lininger—to support debate programs at Springfield High School and Hamlin Middle School
UOTeachOUT —to implement an in-service program for teachers, administrators, and faculty in an effort to offer a culturally responsive pedagogy addressing gender identity and sexual orientation issues


Wayne Morse Chair

Gary Orfield
Gary Orfield is a professor of education, law, political science, and urban planning as well as the codirector of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

Orfield researches the development and implementation of social policy, with a focus on the impact of policy on equal opportunity for success in American society. School desegregation and the implementation of civil rights laws have been central issues throughout his career. In addition to his scholarly work, Orfield has also taken an active role in affirmative action and civil rights cases.

His recent books include Dropouts in America: Confronting the Graduation Rate CrisisSchool Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back? (with John Boger), and Higher Education and the Color Line (with Patricia Marin and Catherine Horn). While in residence at UO, he taught a course on race, law and education.


Visiting Distinguished Researcher in Education

Patricia Gándara
Patricia Gándara was residence during October 2015, hosted by the Wayne Morse Center and the College of Education. Gandara is a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences at UCLA. She has been a bilingual school psychologist, a social scientist with the RAND Corporation, and a director of education research in the California State Legislature. She also served as commissioner for postsecondary education for the State of California, and she is currently codirector of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA.

Gándara’s most recent books are The Bilingual Advantage: Language, Literacy and the U.S. Labor Market (Millennium Matters, 2014), Forbidden Language: English Learners and Restrictive Language Policies (Teachers College Press, 2010) and The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies (Harvard University Press, 2009).


Resident Scholars

Erik Girvan
Erik Girvan is an assistant professor at the UO School of Law. He has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a Ph.D. in social and political psychology from the University of Minnesota. His research focuses on the racial aspects of school discipline. Working with colleagues in the College of Education, he studies why students of color, particularly young black men, receive a disproportionately large percentage of referrals, suspensions and expulsions.

During his time as a resident scholar, Girvan analyzed a database of school discipline decisions to develop a “score card” for use in identifying whether disproportionality in a given school is likely attributable to explicit or implicit bias on the part of authorities. Results will be disseminated through publications and a guide for schools.

Jerry Rosiek
Rosiek is an associate professor in the Department of Education Studies at the UO College of Education. He received his Ph.D. in curriculum studies from Stanford University. He studies the “new racial segregation” of public schools, which has gradually taken place since the high point of desegregation in 1988. Rosiek examines this shift using social science evidence, legal argumentation and public policy changes.

Building on his book Resegregation as Curriculum: The Meaning of the New Segregation in Public Schools, Rosiek edited a book on the relationship between evidence and policy and host a symposium on ways that scholars, activists and public school leaders can collaborate to address resegregation.


Project Grants

Community Alliance for Public Education (CAPE) – CAPE, a local grassroots group, for public events examining standardized testing in schools and other public education issues.

KLCC 89.7 FM – to bring NPR Education Correspondent Claudio Sanchez to Eugene for a four-day residency, which included a public lecture and teaching classes at UO and LCC.

Tom and Henry Lininger – The grant underwrote the cost of travel, workshops and scrimmages for the new Hamlin Middle School (Title I) Debate Program.

Asst. Prof. Ed Madison, UO School of Journalism and Communication – Prof. Madison will create InspiringTeaching.org, a professional development website that will use video highlights of five sequential in-class sessions in which local artists will coach teachers and their students at Oaklea Middle School in Junction City. Visitors to the website will discover new arts integration teaching strategies and will be able to download support materials for use with their own students.

Parenting Now! – To encourage reading in daily life and reinforce early literacy skills, Parenting Now! purchased more than 350 English and Spanish children’s books to distribute free to at-risk families through its “Healthy Families Lane County” and “Make Parenting a Pleasure” programs.

Stand for Children Lane County – Stand for Children reached out to every Eugene 4J school to talk with parents about the pluses and minuses of the Common Core standards and to discuss the need to raise the bar. Gatherings will facilitate discussions and questions; parent feedback will be given to the local school district.

UO Teaching Effectiveness Program – The grant provided support for High Impact Change, a series of community events, faculty workshops, and administrative roundtables that ask: “who, what, and how should faculty teach to ensure the relevance, rigor, continuities, and needed departures of a 21st century undergraduate education?”