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Penn GSE, The Leadership Academy, and prominent researchers receive $3 million federal grant to research effective culturally responsive school practices

By Bridget Goldhahn 
October 13, 2021

The grant will support the development of a research-based took-kit and resources to push practitioners towards meaningful culturally responsive school practices.

Schools will soon have a new set of research-based tools and resources to help them develop meaningful culturally responsive practices. The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and The Leadership Academy, together with leaders from four universities, have received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to create and validate research-based tools that school leaders can leverage to understand and cultivate culturally responsive practices.

Penn GSE Professor Jonathan Supovitz will collaborate with a team of prominent scholars who are leaders in the field of culturally responsive education and leadership. Fellow team leaders are Sonya D. Horsford, Ph.D. of Teachers College, Columbia University; Hollie Mackey, Ph.D., of North Dakota State University; Rosa L. Rivera-McCutchen, Ph.D. of CUNY Lehman College; Constance A. Lindsay, Ph.D. of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Marianna F. Valdez and Lisa Keller of The Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy, a national nonprofit organization that supports and develops culturally responsive school and school system leaders, will provide expertise and facilitate collaboration with education leaders from a diverse set of schools and districts. The team will use The Leadership Academy’s research-based Culturally Responsive Leadership Frameworks as a starting point for developing a series of rubrics that capture the central domains of culturally responsive schooling. The team will then conduct a series of validation studies to examine the rubrics’ reliability and validity. Other team members include The Leadership Academy’s Mary Rice-Boothe, Ed.D., Michele Shannon-Mingo, Ed.L.D., CPRE senior researcher Ryan Fink (University of Pennsylvania), and Cailen O’Shea, assistant professor at North Dakota State University.

The grant is one of $12 million in recent awards under the IES Transformative Research program, which supports “innovative or unconventional research that has the potential to lead to new scientific paradigms, novel and more effective approaches to education practice or policy, or transformative technologies that substantially increase learner outcomes.”

According to Penn GSE professor and CPRE Executive Director Jonathan Supovitz, ”The American education system has long under-served large segments of our youth, for whom today’s educational experiences simply do not resonate with their everyday experiences. Therefore, making education more relevant to students’ lives and helping them to actively engage with their environments is an existential challenge facing educators today. He said, “This project will help guide schools’ progress by developing important research-informed resources and validated tools for educators about what are the key elements of cultural responsiveness and where schools are in their levels of adoption.”

Said The Leadership Academy President & CEO Dr. Nancy Gutiérrez, “To do their best learning, every student needs their school to be a human-centered environment of inclusion where they feel valued, respected and have access to challenging, engaging, and interest-driven learning experiences. It takes a culturally responsive leader to create that environment. Adding, “This project is a critical step for giving leaders evidence-based tools to help them be that leader.”

The Institute of Education Sciences noted in its grant announcement: “In recent years, an emerging body of practice and research has pointed to a promising approach to identifying and addressing systemic inequities: equity-focused culturally responsive schools and culturally responsive leadership. Culturally responsive schools develop welcoming, engaging, and inclusive environments for students and families from diverse backgrounds. Positive learning environments are linked to higher teacher efficacy, decreased student absenteeism, increased graduation rates, and lower suspension rates of high school students. A culturally responsive leader builds the cultural capacity of teachers to teach diverse students effectively and promote pedagogy that validates and affirms student backgrounds. These behaviors have been shown to positively influence academic achievement and students' engagement with the school environment.”

To learn more, visit the project page.

About Penn GSE

Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge-building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit 

About CPRE

The Consortium for Policy Research (CPRE), headquartered at Penn GSE, conducts meaningful research that delves into the relationship between educational policy and the effects it has on classroom practice, student learning, school reform, teacher workforce, and school governance. Find more about CPRE research and projects, visit or follow CPRE on social media at: @cpreresearch

 About The Leadership Academy  

The Leadership Academy is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that builds the capacity of education leaders, at every level of the system, to confront inequities and create the conditions necessary for all students to thrive. Since 2003, The Leadership Academy has worked with thousands of leaders in more than 200 school systems across 37 states, Washington, D.C., and two countries. Visit at:

Consortium for Policy Research in Education

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
3440 Market Street, Suite 560
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Tel: 215.573.0700
Fax: 215.573.7914


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