Matrix On Point

Pandemic Lessons: Assessing Educational Inequalities in the Wake of COVID-19

A "Matrix on Point" panel addressed what we have learned about educational inequalities after a year of pandemic-related school closures.

Presented by the University of California, Berkeley’s Social Science Matrix on March 9, 2021, this video features an online panel discussion from the “Matrix on Point” event series.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of schools and colleges around the world. In the United States, the prolonged shutdown exacerbated the myriad inequalities that pervade our educational system. While the shift to online learning amplified the digital divide, exacerbating losses in learning for students who lack access to modern technologies, it also revealed enduring racial and economic divisions within urban, suburban, and rural communities across the country.

This panel addressed what we have learned about educational inequalities after a year of pandemic-related school closures.

Panelists included: Prudence L. Carter, the E.H. and Mary E. Pardee Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Berkeley; Emily J. Ozer, Professor of Community Health Sciences at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health; and Matthew Rafalow, a Sociologist (PhD, University of California-Irvine), a social scientist at Google, and a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley’s Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society. Zeus Leonardo, Professor of Education at UC Berkeley, moderated the panel.

Watch the video above or on YouTube.


About the Panelists

Prudence L. Carter

Prudence L. Carter is the E.H. and Mary E. Pardee Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Berkeley. Dean Carter’s research focuses on factors that both shape and reduce economic, social and cultural inequalities among social groups in schools and society.  A sociologist, she examines academic and mobility differences influenced by the dynamics of race, ethnicity, poverty, class, and gender in U.S. and global society.  Before being appointed Dean at Berkeley, she was the Jacks Family Professor of Education and Professor of Sociology (by courtesy) at Stanford University. She was also the Faculty Director of John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, and the Director of the Research Institute for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty in 2007, she was Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. Dean Carter’s award-winning book, Keepin’ It Real: School Success beyond Black and White (Oxford University Press, 2005), engages with and interrogates cultural explanations used to explain school achievement and racial identity for low-income Black and Latino youth in the United States. Her other books include Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. & South African Schools(link is external) (2012) and Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance(link is external) (2013), co-edited with Dr. Kevin Welner — both published by Oxford University Press. Her other publications have appeared in various journals and book volumes. Her research has also been featured in the Peabody Award-winning documentary “Mind the Gap: Why Are Good Schools Failing Black Students” by journalist Nancy Solomon and has been featured on dozens of National Public Radio (NPR) shows across the United States.

Emily Ozer

Emily J. Ozer is a clinical and community psychologist and Professor at the UC-Berkeley School of Public Health whose research focuses on the role of school climate in adolescent development and mental health; school-based interventions; and participatory action research (YPAR), an equity-focused approach in which youth are trained to generate systematic research evidence to address problems they want to improve in their schools and communities. She is the co-founder and co-Director of Innovations for Youth (I4Y) at UC Berkeley. Much of her research on YPAR including the development of the YPAR Hub has been in partnership with San Francisco Peer Resources, a non-profit youth social justice organization. Funded by a William T. Grant Institutional Challenge Grant, she is actively working in a research-practice partnership (RPP) with the San Francisco Unified School District to integrate student-led research in equity and school improvement initiatives. She also leads a 6-district study funded by WT Grant in California, Colorado, NJ, and Ohio on the use of research evidence from YPAR in K-12 school systems.

Matthew Rafalow

Matt Rafalow is a Sociologist (PhD, University of California-Irvine), a social scientist at Google, and a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley’s Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society. At Google, he leads a research program on live streaming experiences. He strives to conduct research that blends academic inquiry with applied solutions that have a meaningful impact. Most of his publishing is on education. In Digital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era (University of Chicago Press, 2020), he studied how digital technologies are used in middle schools. He found that teachers draw on organization-level understandings of student race and class to construct students as either risky hackers or Steve Jobs potentials. Digital technologies were not magic bullets to address educational inequities – rather, teachers adopted very similar technologies quite differently depending on the race and class of their student body. In Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning (NYU Press, 2018), he and his co-authors studied how informal learning communities online function to help youth and young adults level up in digital skills.

Zeus Leonardo (moderator)

Zeus Leonardo, Professor of Education at UC Berkeley, has published numerous articles and book chapters on critical social thought in education. His articles have appeared in Educational Researcher; Race, Ethnicity, and Education; Teachers College Record; and Educational Philosophy and Theory. Some of his essays include: “Critical Social Theory and Transformative Knowledge,” “The Souls of White Folk,” “The Color of Supremacy,” “Contracting Race,” and “Dis-orienting Western Knowledge.” His most recent books are Race, Whiteness, and Education (Routledge), Race Frameworks (Teachers College Press), Education and Racism (with Grubb, Routledge, 2nd ed), and he is the editor the Handbook of Cultural Politics and Education (SensePublishers). Professor Leonardo’s current research interests involve the study of ideologies and discourses in education with respect to structural relations of power.

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