Brown and Providence Schools

K-12 Research

Brown researchers are working to understand and confront the most pressing challenges facing Providence schools, from English and reading proficiency to teacher retention.

Every year, Brown researchers from a diverse set of disciplines collaborate directly with Providence and Rhode Island education leaders to develop insights that confront their most pressing challenges and support their most ambitious goals. 

Together, researchers, policymakers and local educators design and carry out studies that innovate teaching practices and inform education policy. While much of that work is centered in Brown’s Department of Education and Annenberg Institute for School Reform, scholars from entities as diverse as the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute, the Policy Lab and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs play important roles. 

Many of these partnerships are paving the way for better education and career outcomes for children in Rhode Island’s urban core.

Brown and PPSD Research Partnerships

At the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, researchers are collaborating on a collection of white papers that use Providence Public School District data to confront and fix challenges — including teacher recruitment, retention and diversity — in the city’s public schools and are working with district leaders to identify solutions.
To improve educational outcomes for students who speak English as a second language, Brown’s Policy Lab helped PPSD evaluate the effectiveness of its Multilingual Learners programs. Now, the lab and the district are working to boost attendance among program participants, expand dual language instruction and continue to evaluate the efficacy.
When Rhode Island’s leaders needed help understanding reading proficiency in local schools, they came to the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute. Researchers conducted a study to assess how risk factors in infancy were associated with reading proficiency years later — an analysis that informed the state’s strategy to raise third grade reading proficiency levels to 75% by 2025.

More K-12 Research at Brown

Myriad researchers at Brown, even when they are not directly partnered with Providence public schools, are breaking new ground in understanding and confronting the challenges that PPSD and other urban school districts often face.

Whether they’re analyzing teacher retention in urban schools or developing a new national social studies curriculum that could transform high school civics, many of Brown’s education policy experts, economists and sociologists are contributing new insights into the challenges and complexities of urban schools. Their work serves to improve educational outcomes for students in Providence and other cities across the nation.

Education Research Highlights

News from Brown

Transforming High School Civics

Brown Assistant Professor of Education Jonathan Collins is part of a research team that will boost high school civics lessons by connecting students directly with members of Congress. Ultimately, the project’s goal is to ensure that students across the nation become informed, engaged voters and citizens.
News from Brown

Lifting All Boats

The report “Lifting All Boats?,” authored by Brown Associate Professor of Education John Papay and colleagues, found that nearby in Massachusetts, persistent income and race gaps in college attainment remain. Papay’s multi-year research project on educational opportunity in the Bay State provides crucial insights on pressing problems faced by urban schools, including at home in Providence.
News from Brown

Understanding the Racial Gap in Suspensions

Brown Assistant Professor of Sociology Jayanti Owens found in a data analysis that elementary schools tend to discipline Black students more harshly, leading to a considerable racial gap in suspension and expulsion. Owens’ research is helping education leaders understand how to prevent unequal treatment of Black students in schools nationwide.
News from Brown

Opportunity Atlas

Brown Professor of Economics John Friedman and two Harvard University colleagues mapped all Americans’ chances of upward mobility based on the neighborhoods in which they grow up. The map and data is helping policymakers more precisely target educational programs that aim to improve economic opportunities for disadvantaged children.