Working Group on Educational Policy

With a focus on current educational reform efforts around achievement and access to education, the Working Group on Educational Policy brings together scholars, policymakers, practitioners, and community stakeholders to assess reform initiatives and make recommendations. The researchers explore complex educational challenges facing various subgroups ranging from Pre-Kindergarteners to postsecondary students.


  • Share timely and innovative approaches based on research
  • Effectively translate research for practitioners
  • Advocate for policies designed to eradicate achievement and access disparities
  • Recognize the possibility for excellence and equity to co-exist in our schools

Current Policy Project:

Conceptualizing a Durham Teaching Fellows Program

The Education Policy Working Group is partnering with with Student U to explore ways to diversify the teaching force—specifically within Durham Public Schools (DPS). Currently, the racial/ethnic demographics of teachers within DPS does not mirror student demographics. For example, while 32.8% of students within DPS are Hispanic/Latinx, only 2 percent of DPS staff identify as such.

The recruitment and retention of outstanding educators has been identified as a priority for DPS within their 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. In order to address this priority, the Working Group is exploring potential models for establishing a sustainable pipeline of teachers of color to help diversify the DPS teaching force. One such model under consideration is a “homegrown” Durham Teaching Fellows program, where graduating DPS students would receive a college tuition scholarship to complete an educator preparation program in exchange for committing to return to DPS to teach for four years as a repayment of their loan.

This project is in the beginning stages with the following activities underway:

  • Extensive literature review regarding recruitment and retention of teachers of color (What works)
  • Examination of the research pertaining to the benefits (academic and social-emotionally) for students of color in having teachers of color
  • Review of DPS’s strategic plan, hiring trends, and goals
  • Identification of potential partners and funders (public and private)
  • Creation of a plan of action and timeline

Anyone interested in assisting with this project should contact Erica Phillips at

Current Grant Project:

Are Gifted Programs Beneficial to Underserved Students?

The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) recently awarded Duke University a research grant to examine the extent to which gifted education policies and programs in North Carolina contribute to beneficial academic and social-emotional outcomes for students. Through an in-depth examination of malleable factors that may moderate student success, researchers hope to discover what types of gifted education policies work, for whom, and under what conditions by asking the following research questions:

  1. Is gifted program participation associated with beneficial academic and social-emotional student outcomes (what works)?;
  2. Which students benefit most from participation in gifted programs (for whom)?; and
  3. Which malleable factors mediate and/or moderate the effects of gifted education participation (and nonparticipation) on student outcomes (under what conditions)?

The research will focus especially on the experiences of underserved (black, Hispanic/Latino, and economically disadvantaged) gifted students.

Award Number: R305A190484

Award Amount: $1,399,452

Award Period:  4 years (07/01/2019 – 06/30/2023)

Investigators: William Darity, Jr., Kristen R. Stephens, and Malik Henfield (Loyola University Chicago)


North Carolina Public School Districts interested in serving as a study site should contact Kristen Stephens, Ph.D. at or 919-660-3083.

Duke Graduate and Undergraduate Students interested in helping to support this research should contact the Cook Center.