Like many, I care deeply about the social issue of inequality, especially in education.  I often wonder how a democratic society develops high inequality that limits the upward mobility of many who are disadvantaged. Dr. Aaron Pallas, a faculty member of the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis, gave a lecture on Enigmatic Inequality in New York City’s Public Schools that provided insight into how unequal opportunities in public schools have persisted over the years in New York City. He explained how vicious cycles made it difficult for disadvantaged schools to rise above the status quo or worse, sent them further down the challenging path.

As a doctoral student, I came to TC with dreams that someday, I too can contribute, in however a small way, to improving the education system. At the lecture, Dr. Pallas made a reference to a study about disproportional assignment of late-enrolling students that I recently co-authored at the Annenberg Institute of School Reform. In the study, we found that struggling schools received much higher percentages of late-enrolling students who are likely to have higher needs, because they may be new immigrants, previously incarcerated teens, or, for any other reasons, unable to register through the regular application process. This made me realize that our work as researchers is like a group of like-minded people trying to put a large puzzle together.

As we each work hard to our own ability, we can help figure out a corner of a puzzle that may be connected at some point with other pieces to help make the bigger picture clearer. And some of us may even be able to create solutions that help solve some of the problems that other researchers found. Coincidentally, after attending the lecture, I received an email from a fellow doctoral student from UC Berkeley whom I worked with when I briefly volunteered at the Berkeley Review of Education. She told me that she came across the same study above and it may be helpful to her dissertation work. I am elated to imagine that more pieces of the puzzle will be connected.

Toi Sin Arvidsson holds an MA degree in Developmental Psychology from San Francisco State University and is currently a second year doctoral student in Developmental Psychology, Human Development Department at TC. She serves on the board of IndyKids (, a nation wide youth newspaper written by kids for kids, and runs its Kid Reporter Program. She is also an independent research contractor with Annenberg Institute for School Reform. 

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