Community-engaged research through the lens of school closures: Opportunities, challenges, contributions, and lingering questions


  • Claudette Agard New York City Coalition for Educational Justice
  • Zakiyah Ansari New York City Coalition for Educational Justice
  • Jerusha Conner Villanova University
  • Barbara Ferman Temple University
  • Liza N. Pappas
  • Jessica Shiller Towson University



community-engaged research, school closings, New York City, Baltimore


This article expands upon and problematizes the practice of community-engaged research (CES) through the lens of school closings. Rather than employ a one-dimensional view of CES that portrays university researchers and community partners as collaborating equally on all stages of the research, we suggest a broader, more flexible understanding that incorporates various contextual factors. Drawing on local examples, from New York City and Baltimore, and one national effort to resist school closings, we  present three forms of CES: participatory action research (PAR), in which university researchers and community partners collaboratively engaged in almost all aspects of the process; the engaged learner, in which the researcher documented a community organizing campaign with the full support of the campaign organizers; and a grassroots listening project implemented without university partners. In each case, participants had to navigate the thorny issues of power differentials, race and racism, ownership and voice, and presentation and representation. Difficulties notwithstanding, CES has made important contributions to both the literature on and practice of school closings. We conclude the article with a discussion of some of the lingering tensions that characterize community-engaged scholarship.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Claudette Agard, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice

Claudette Agard advocates for transformative family engagement for low-income families and communities. She was a parent leader with the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, and currently serves as Family and Community Empowerment Field Support Manager at the NYC Department of Education. She is a mother of two children. 

Zakiyah Ansari, New York City Coalition for Educational Justice

Zakiyah Ansari is an outspoken advocate for public schools. She is the advocacy director at the New York State Alliance for Quality Education, a founding parent leader for NYC Coalition for Coalition for Educational Justice, and a mother of eight children. 

Jerusha Conner, Villanova University

Jerusha Conner is an associate professor of education at Villanova University. Her research focuses on youth activism, student voice, and student engagement. She has co-edited Contemporary Youth Activism (Prager, 2016) and Student Voice in American Educational Policy (Teachers College Record Yearbook, 2015).

Barbara Ferman, Temple University

Barbara Ferman is a professor of political science at Temple University and founder and executive director of the University Community Collaborative, a media based, social justice initiative for high school and college students. She has published four books and numerous articles on education politics, urban policy, community development, racial integration, youth development, and pedagogy. 

Liza N. Pappas

Liza N. Pappas currently works for New York City government. Data in this article was collected when she was a Ph.D student in the Urban Education program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. The article was written during her time as a visiting Assistant Professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Jessica Shiller, Towson University

Jessica Shiller is an Associate Professor of Education at Towson University in Baltimore, MD. Her research interests include teacher and youth activism as well as the impact of neoliberal policies on urban schools.




How to Cite

Agard, C., Ansari, Z., Conner, J., Ferman, B., Pappas, L. N., & Shiller, J. (2019). Community-engaged research through the lens of school closures: Opportunities, challenges, contributions, and lingering questions. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 55.



Research For Justice