Research News

Diamond receives Spencer Midcareer Grant to further examine equity in racially diverse schools

May 08, 2017

UW-Madison’s John Diamond was recently awarded a Spencer Foundation Midcareer Grant, a prestigious award that will allow him to further examine how educational leadership, policies and practices shape students’ opportunities and outcomes.

The Midcareer Grant is designed to enrich the work of academic mid-career scholars who are seven to 20 years post doctorate. This targeted program provides support for scholars who are interested in advancing their understanding of a compelling problem of education.

"I am very excited to have this opportunity to grow as a scholar and research partner," Diamond says of receiving the Midcareer Grant, which will allow him to embed with leaders in racially diverse districts to gain a deeper understanding of how they work to create more equity in their schools.

Diamond is UW-Madison’s Hoefs-Bascom Professor of Education and is a faculty member with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He is the author of the 2015 award-winning book, “Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools,” which is co-authored by Amanda Lewis.

Based on five years’ worth of data gathering and interviews with more than 170 people, both in school and around the community, Diamond and Lewis were able to produce an illuminating book that helps explain how the racial patterns in students’ experiences and outcomes bedevil American schools. Much research on this topic to date has centered on the role of poverty, family stability, and other external influences in explaining poor performance at school, especially in inner-city contexts. But this book not only closely examined a suburban school, but also studied what factors within the school itself could be causing these racial patterns in students' experiences and outcomes.

The Spencer Foundation Midcareer Grant will allow Diamond to expand on his important research by pursuing a new project called, “District Leadership for Equity in Racially Diverse School Systems.”

A summary of this project on the Spencer website explains: “Dr. Diamond has substantial knowledge of school leadership, educational inequality, and research/practice partnerships (RPPs) from the vantage point of a researcher. However, he seeks to learn more about the day-to-day processes through which district leaders respond to racial inequality.”

The preview continues: “In this project, Diamond will embed himself with senior leaders in two school districts that are engaged in substantive equity work. Through this experience, he will expand his knowledge of district-level leadership, gain a more practical understanding of how district leaders work for equity in demographically diverse settings, and deepen his knowledge of how race and class matter for leadership in contested spaces. This project will also enhance his ability to participate in and build RPPs that contribute to meaningful educational change and reduce race and class inequality.”

"It is truly an honor to receive this grant from the Spencer Foundation,” says Diamond. “It will provide me with an excellent opportunity to understand how district leaders work to create more equity in their schools. By being embedded with district leaders, I will gain powerful insights into their day-to-day practices and gain a more practical understanding of how district leaders work for equity in demographically diverse settings."