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DeMarcus Jenkins Partners in New Research Project Funded by The William T. Grant Foundation

By John McDonald
DeMarcus Jenkins

UCLA Ed alumnus will explore impact of urban development and housing upon academic outcomes.

DeMarcus Jenkins, a 2018 UCLA School of Education and Information Studies doctoral graduate in Urban Schooling and assistant professor of education policy in the Department of Education Policy Studies at The Pennsylvania State University, is a recipient of a $512,000 research grant awarded by the William T. Grant Foundation for research on the impact of community re-development programs on Black families. The three -year project employs a mixed-methods framework to examine the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI), which was designed to transform racially segregated neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty through mixed-income housing re-development, community-based wrap-around services, and case management support. The project examines three CNI sites across the U.S. - Baltimore, St. Louis, and Memphis, bringing together researchers from several institutions, community-based organizations, and school district officials.

Collaborators on the project are Jason Jabbari, assistant research professor at the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis; Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Yung Chun, senior analyst at the Social Policy Institute; and Odis Johnson, Jr., Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Social Policy and STEM Equity at Johns Hopkins University. 

The project is a research-practice collaboration between SPI and Urban Strategies Inc., the largest implementation partner for the CNI providing wrap-around supports to CNI families, as well as Saint Louis Public Schools, Shelby County Schools, Seeding Success, and Baltimore City Public Schools. The Department of Housing and Urban Development created the CNI in 2009 to redevelop systemically underinvested communities while relocating families to higher-income neighborhoods in the process. 

“I hope that the project sheds light on how federal policies might work to address persistent systemic inequities in urban neighborhoods. Importantly, educational equity is inextricably bonded with struggles over place,” Jenkins said. “And that the findings from this project illuminate possibilities when education and neighborhood reform are interconnected.”

At UCLA, Jenkins earned his PhD in Education in the Urban Schooling division with a concentration in education policy and leadership. His dissertation was titled: “From Segregation to Congregation: A case study of community engaged urban school reform.” 

“Our alumnus DeMarcus Jenkins deserves our congratulations and thanks for this important work. He is a rising scholar with a bright future,” said Tyrone Howard, Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies and Faculty Director of the Center for the Transformation of Schools. 

“His success at UCLA and the research he is engaged in now is evidence of the talent and ability of Black students in doctoral programs here at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies and elsewhere, and the importance of their inclusion and participation in academic research in our communities and nation.” 

Jenkins’ current research focuses on the influence of spatial, social and political factors that foster and exacerbate inequalities for Black populations as well as the approaches that school leaders take to disrupt and transform these dynamics. 

In 2021, Jenkins received a research grant from the Spencer Foundation to examine how urban school systems respond to policy changes that divest and disinvest from law enforcement on school campuses. His program of research draws from his previous professional experience working in urban schools and in local and state policy and advocacy.