Curriculum & Foundations (C&F)

Participatory Action Research - Lives in Transition


Ms. Haynes & Tonya Haywood


Our project brings youth from nearby schools together with teacher candidates from Cleveland State University (CSU) for the purpose of inquiring into issues important to youth, their schools, and communities. In the spring of 2011, our project focused on the impact of school closure, following Cleveland’s closure of fifteen schools in 2010.

The project involves participatory action research (PAR) with youth, the integration of the arts and storytelling, the involvement of CSU teacher candidates in PAR, and an ongoing policy analysis of the impact of school closure supported by CSU doctoral students.

Lives in Transition: Eviction Notice

A product from this work is the film, Lives in Transition: Eviction Notice. The film conveys the impact of school closure as narrated by youth: academic challenges; social adjustment among displaced students in schools to which they were assigned; inadequate transportation policies for students who now travel a greater distance between home and school; and the uncertain future of vacant school buildings.

Influenced by critical theory, we worked with the youth and teacher candidates to situate school closure within a study of educational policy and local history. In particular, we looked at the acceleration of school construction in the 1960’s to preserve racial segregation, the mobilization of protest against the construction of these schools, the 1976 Reed v. Rhodes ruling to integrate Cleveland schools, and the increasing racial and economic isolation of many neighborhoods on the east side of Cleveland.

This is the location of fourteen of the fifteen school closures in 2010 and all of the seven school closures in 2011. Our study of policy included consideration of the current state and federal support for the expansion of charter schools and the affordable purchase or leasing of closed neighborhood schools by charters.

Connecting Individual Lives to a Study of Structural Conditions and History

By analyzing the experience of youth in relation to structural and historical conditions, and still acknowledging the financial constraints faced by urban districts, youth and teacher candidates were able to question dimensions of the issue once seen as normative, or “given.” We connected the local stories of impact with current research on school closure. In so doing, the project drew us closer to the injustice of this policy, as it is experienced disproportionately by students of color living in communities already stressed by foreclosure, unemployment, and poverty.

The project reflects broader efforts within Cleveland State University to provide a reciprocal sharing of resources and knowledge with youth and their communities in addressing serious issues within the city and region. In particular, it involves teacher candidates in supporting participatory action research to stretch their imagination of what is possible in public education within our city.

We are grateful for the support of the College of Education and Human Resources, the Center for Teaching Excellence, Engaging Diversity Grants of Excellence, and the Ford Secondary Education and Racial Justice Collaborators (FSERJC) project.

Lives in Transition: Eviction Notice

View the movie
Lives in Transitions: Eviction Notice

Courtesy of Eric Schilling