First secondary school teacher to become Fullbright Schuman scholar

Next year, we will be glad to welcome Letitia Zwickert, a high school teacher at Naperville Central High School in Illinois, and the first secondary educator to become a Fulbright-Schuman Scholar.

The Fulbright-Schuman Program, administered by the Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States, Belgium and Luxembourg, is jointly financed by the U.S. State Department and the Directorate-General for Education and Culture of the European Commission awards Scholar Grants based on EU-US initiated research projects.

Research Overview

Project title: “ET2020, Globally Competitive Schools, and Minority Success: Experiences from France, Luxembourg, and Belgium.” 

This project, beginning January, 2016, is a 6 month qualitative, comparative case study of current education policy in Europe and an assessment of how secondary European schools are supporting their minority populations given new, more rigorous curriculum. My research is meant to uncover successful methods of improving educational outcomes for minorities in the changing educational environment resulting from PISA testing, in hopes to contribute solutions for closing the achievement gap.  As a Visiting Scholar at key European university research centers specializing in minority education, I will have access to top international education scholars, and conduct intensive fieldwork at the EU, state and local levels. This work will highlight solutions for enhancing minority student education and success in a “globalized knowledge economy”.

Research Brief

Common EU and US struggles of declining high school test scores and inequalities for minority students threaten competitiveness in the global knowledge economy, sparking new policy initiatives that require research of shared problems and potential solutions. PISA test scores have sent a clear and strong message to the EU and US about the inadequacies of their educational systems, and their much debated, still largely unresolved, education gap between the majority and struggling minority populations. With the EU’s ET2020 and the Common Core in the United States establishing new educational benchmarks, it would be both significant and essential at this moment in education history to explore the current national policy, as well as best practices and teacher programs being used to meet new standards and transform social, political and economic conditions.

This qualitative, comparative case study will assess how France, Luxembourg and Belgium institute and implement ET2020 framework to modernize their secondary schools, and how national and local best practices and programs further the success of their Roma, Northern and Southern African, and other minority populations. Specifically, disadvantaged youth often have limited access to highly qualified educators. This research will assess how countries, regions, and schools are working to attract and retain qualified teachers to disadvantaged schools. The importance of these Member State cases allows for strong models to be presented for the sharing of European solutions to global educational challenges. Though all EU Member States have autonomous educational systems, as defined by the Lisbon Strategy, a sharing of best practices and solutions for improving teacher quality would be beneficial as the EU community and US each try to answer how education can adequately assure all children, regardless of their social or cultural heritage, are sufficiently prepared for the future.

This work will fill significant gaps in the research, and coincide with important policy and program changes resulting from preparation for PISA 2015. Within the US, Common Core and President Obama’s own goals for 2020, are setting new standards and objectives for the country. This research will further a transatlantic dialogue that is now more timely and important than ever before.  Additionally, these European solutions will offer suggestions for other countries working to resolve their own achievement gaps. Truly a problem without borders, this exchange of knowledge will yield benefits for all involved in the discussion.