Past Projects

Past Research Projects

Chicago School Closings: Experiences of Families, Students, and Communities (2014-15)

In May 2013, Chicago closed 49 public elementary schools. This action, decided by a mayor-appointed school board, was the largest school closure in US history. Since 2001, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has closed, turned-around, or consolidated over 150 neighborhood public schools, the vast majority in low-income African American and Latino communities.

There has been controversy and protest surrounding school closings in Chicago and throughout the nation. While proponents argue that closing schools can help the district consolidate resources and/or offer better educational opportunities to students, critics argue that school closures are part of a larger effort to privatize education and that massive school closures disrupt communities, jeopardize students’ safety, interrupt learning, and disproportionately harm students of color and students with special needs. Yet, despite both the increase in school closures and the controversy surrounding them, there is very little data available about the impact of school closings. Moreover, during the school closing process, parents repeatedly asserted that CPS provided inaccurate, missing, and shifting information and left them out of decision- making.

Chicago’s education reform agenda, and particularly the decision to close dozens of schools, is one of the most impactful and contested public policies in the city. Nonetheless, the trend of closing schools is increasing even though there is very limited data about the impact of such closings. While there are a few studies of the impact of school closings on student achievement, there is a need to document the impact of school closings on children, families, and communities from the perspectives of those directly affected.

The purpose of the Chicago School Closings research project is two-fold: 1) to document the impact of school closings on African American and Latino students, families, and communities in Chicago; 2) to share our findings with affected communities to inform their advocacy for educational policies they believe are in the best interests of their children. Communities need carefully researched and substantiated information to effectively advocate for their children.

To download research briefs and reports related to this project, please see the Publications page on this site. For more information, please contact Pauline Lipman, principal investigator, at or Kelly Vaughan, project coordinator and lead researcher at

This project is made possible with generous support from the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) and the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Research Team, Chicago School Closings (2014-15)

Pauline Lipman – Principal Investigator

Pauline Lipman is professor of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She is also the Director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education.  She has over fifteen years of experience conducting research on Chicago school reform, collaborative research, and public engagement with community organizations.  Her research focuses on race and class inequality in urban education, globalization and the political economy of urban education.

Dr. Lipman was a founding member of Teachers for Social justice and as an active member of TSJ she has been involved in grassroots education organizing against education privatization. She works with parents and students to advocate for strong, equitable, democratic neighborhood public schools and community-driven school transformation.

Kelly Vaughan – Project Coordinator and Lead Researcher

Dr. Kelly Vaughan is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Curriculum and Instruction doctoral program and a project coordinator and lead researcher with the UIC Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education. Kelly is a former Chicago Public Schools teacher, where she was a lead teacher in one of Chicago’s small schools on the Southeast side.  She also has experience working in a non-profit community organization as a community educator, where she focused on issues of peace and economic justice. Currently, Kelly teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in curriculum and instruction and literacy education.

Kelly is a member of Teachers for Social Justice and is active in struggles to support an elected school board and to create just and equitable schools for all children. As a parent of two Chicago Public School students, Kelly is active in her children’s neighborhood school and an advocate for children with special needs. Kelly’s research interests include curriculum history, African American education, and the impact of education policy on parents, students, and communities.

Eric Gutstein – Faculty Research Associate

Eric (Rico) Gutstein is a professor in curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has worked with CPS schools since 1994, supporting students, teachers, administrators, and support staff in a variety of ways. He was part of the Design Team that founded Chicago’s Social Justice High School (Lawndale) in 2005 and has worked with the school since that time. He teaches and studies mathematics for social justice in urban contexts.

Dr. Gutstein also was a founding member of Teachers for Social Justice, an organization of teachers/educators of all kinds and education activists. As part of TSJ’s leadership, he has been active in the struggles against education privatization in Chicago and nationally, and has also worked to develop critical and culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy for use in K-12 schools.

Rhoda Rae Gutierrez – Program Coordinator and Researcher

Rhoda Rae Gutierrez is currently a PhD student in Educational Policy Studies-Social Foundations at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the program director at UIC’s Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education.  At CEJE, she has collaborated with teachers on critical teacher inquiry groups and to integrate critical pedagogy in the classroom, and has organized teacher workshops and public colloquia on education justice issues.  Her research interests include globalization in education, particularly the migration of teachers from the global south to north, and inequities in urban education.

Rhoda is a parent of two Chicago Public School students and is an activist with Parents 4 Teachers, a Chicago-based grassroots parent organization that works in solidarity with teachers, students and community organizations for education justice.  She is also involved in the struggle for an elected representative school board with the city-wide coalition Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE).

Dena Campbell – Researcher

Dena Campbell is currently a PhD student in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Mathematics Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She received her master’s degree in Education and her undergraduate degree in Psychology.

Dena Campbell is currently a mathematics special education teacher and has eight years of experience in mathematics education.  Prior to starting her teaching career in Chicago, she taught in Houston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana.  She was recently awarded a fellowship from the Chicago Foundation for Education to conduct action research in her mathematics classroom.

Michelle Hoereth – Researcher

Michelle Hoereth is currently a doctoral student in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Her research interest is an extension of her work as a practitioner and she focuses on the relationship between community development and educational policies.  She received her Master’s in Educational Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University, and BA in Economics from Howard University.

Michelle has over fifteen years of experience in the community development industry with expertise in affordable housing finance and housing policy.  She has held management positions for both regional and national based community development financial institutions (CDFI).  She has worked on a variety of projects that range from developing projects for formerly homeless families to working with local government agencies on creating and implementing broad affordable housing strategies.  She has extensive experience working on the ground with local community development organizations as well as state and federal agencies on housing issues.

Katie Osgood – Researcher/Media Specialist

Katie Osgood is currently a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Educational Policy Studies-Social Foundations program.  She received her Masters of Education in Elementary and Special Education at DePaul University in 2009.  Her B.A. is from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in East Asian Languages and Cultures with a minor in English as a Second/Foreign Language.  She is an active member of Teachers for Social Justice, a member of CORE (Chicago Rank and File Educator Caucus of the Chicago teachers Union), and contributes articles and blogs on various education policy websites including EdWeek, At The ChalkFace, and NEPC (The National Education Policy Center.)

Ms. Osgood works as a special education teacher at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital on the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit.  Before that, she taught in a Chicago Public School Elementary School.  She has also worked Lurie’s Children’s Hospital, and taught English for six years in Japan.

Zayoni Torres – Researcher

Zayoni Torres is a doctoral candidate in Curriculum Studies, with a concentration in Mathematics Education and Gender and Women’s Studies, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a former research fellow for the Center for Mathematics Education of Latinos/as (CEMELA) and currently a research assistant for the English Learning through Math, Science, and Action Research (ELMSA) project—a long-term teacher professional development project employing a transformative action research model that integrates literacy, mathematics, and science activities for improving teaching and learning for English Learners (ELs). Her community involvement includes participation in Teacher’s for Social Justice, volunteering at various community organizations including the Union League Boys and Girls Club, and teaching GED classes at a local community center as part of the Center for Literacy.

Asif Wilson – Researcher

Mr. Asif Wilson is currently an instructor of pre-service teachers in urban education programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago.  Prior to moving into teacher education, he served as a 7th/8th grade science teacher at a Chicago Public School on the city’s Westside.  He has worked extensively with children in many capacities for the past 10 years, from working with first time offenders in Englewood to speaking to local churches’ adolescents.  He received his undergraduate degree in elementary education in 2008 and his master’s degree in education in 2010 from UIC, and is currently in the PhD program in curriculum and instruction at UIC.

Mr. Wilson’s research has primarily been on the role education plays for African American youth in urban settings, particularly the ways in which a teacher’s pedagogy engages youth of color.  In addition to his job responsibilities Mr. Wilson is a professional musician and has been an active board member for Agape Youth Network and Fathers Who Care.  He is currently a member of the Chicago Teacher’s Union Black Caucus and Teachers for Social Justice.