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ASU Professor Will Pursue Studies on School Choice

MESA, Ariz.

David Garcia, an assistant professor at Arizona State University,  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 and Policy Studies in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, is one of 20 fellows selected this year from  more than 150 applicants. He will receive a $55,000 award for the two-year fellowship.

“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.”

In Arizona, school choice offers students the opportunity to attend public, charter or private schools. Garcia says evidence indicates school choice also leads to self-segregation, but previous studies looked only at non-Hispanic students.

“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 previous studies has not looked at the viewpoint of Latino parents, who might have strong opinions that could shape school policy.

Garcia intends to take into account the fact 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, new immigrants are 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.”

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…. 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 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.

ASU also announced that Gabriel Escontras Jr. has been named the new director for the Office of Academic Personnel at Arizona State University, effective July 1. Escontras will serve as the liaison to the academic units and faculty.

“My overall goal is to make sure that the Office of Academic Personnel becomes user-friendly, and to ensure that all our processes abide by ASU Policies and Procedures,” Escontras says.

Escontras served as the manager of academic personnel in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He joined the college in February 2007 to serve as assistant to the dean of natural sciences.

Escontras holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from ASU. He is pursuing a doctoral degree in education at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton School of Education. He also is the 2008-2009 president of the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association.

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