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Lillie Jones (Henrico) discusses her action research project 

STUDY UPDATE (12.6.18)



Read the report from component one in three parts: 1) demographic changes in the MERC region, 2) federal, state, and local policy contexts, 3) review of literature and availability of professional development on cultural diversity.



Explore demographic changes over the past ten years in MERC division schools using our interactive tools.


Learn more about the eight teachers conducting action research related to cultural diversity in their classrooms. 


The purpose of this study is to understand cultural diversity within our schools and explore professional development models that equip educators to support students from various backgrounds. The project was commissioned by the Policy and Planning Council in December of 2016. The study team was identified and began its work in the spring of 2017. The research questions and research plan were approved by the Policy and Planning Council in October 2017. It is expected that the final report for the study will be published in the fall of 2019. 

There are three related research efforts occurring with this study. First, we are examining the changing demographics of the schools in the MERC region and the existing policies and professional development initiatives related to cultural diversity. Second, we are supporting a cohort of eight teachers from the member divisions as they conduct action research projects related to cultural diversity within their classrooms and schools. Finally, we are conducting a mixed method study of professional development practices. This component of the study will involve a survey of school-based professionals (i.e., teachers, instructional staff, administrators) about attitudes toward cultural diversity within schools, perceptions of barriers and opportunities, and perspectives on need for professional development. This survey will be followed up with evaluative case study of selected professional development programs. 

It is expected that the findings from this study will be useful to regional schools in several ways. First, through the work we expect to develop a strong understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by increased cultural diversity within schools. Through the mapping and survey component the study will also provide a need analysis for decision making about targeted professional development. We will also provide recommendations for best practice for professional development related to cultural diversity in schools. Depending on interest and additional support, there is also the possibility of using what is learned as the basis for the design and implementation of new professional development models.



Julie Gorlewski – Co-Principal Investigator,
Learning and Instruction, University at Buffalo

Hillary Parkhouse – Co-Principal Investigator,
Department of Teaching and Learning, VCU

Jesse Senechal – Co-Principal Investigator,
Department of Foundations of Education, MERC, VCU

David Naff – Co-Principal Investigator, 
Department of Foundations of Education, MERC, VCU

Fantasy Lozada – Assistant Professor 
Developmental Psychology, VCU

Zoey Lu – MERC Graduate Research Assistant, 
Curriculum Culture and Change, VCU

Ashlee Lester – Graduate Research Assistant,
Educational Psychology, VCU

Krystal Thomas – Graduate Research Assistant, 
Developmental Psychology, VCU


Jaime Stacy – Instructional Development Specialist,
Chesterfield County Public Schools

Tameshia Grimes – Director of Equity and Student Support Services,
Chesterfield County Public Schools

Amie Potter – Assistant Principal, Goochland Middle School,
Goochland County Public Schools

Amy Thompson – Coordinator of Professional Development,
Hanover County Public Schools

Brian Maltby - Disciplinary Hearing Review Officer,
Hanover County Public Schools

Emily Garcia – School Counselor, Lee Davis High School,
Hanover County Public Schools

Jennifer Rucker – Principal, Goochland Middle,
Goochland County Public Schools

Joshua Cole – Principal, Ecoff Elementary,
Chesterfield County Public Schools

Laura Faulcon – Assistant Principal, The Phoenix Center,
Chesterfield County Public Schools

Lynn Clayton-Prince – Director of Exceptional Education, 
Powhatan Public Schools

Matthew Mason – Assistant Principal, Goochland High,
Goochland County Public Schools

Rachel Wilborn – Assistant Principal, Goochland High,
Goochland County Public Schools

Travis Ridley – Principal, North Elementary,
Colonial Heights Public Schools

Mike Massa – Principal, Powhatan High,
Powhatan Public Schools

Phyllis Holliman - School Counseling Director,
Henrico County Public Schools

Angela Stewart - Education Specialist,
Henrico County Public Schools

Kimberly Jones - Coordinator of Professional Development
Richmond Public Schools



Brandi C. Walker –  Lakeview Elementary School
Teacher (Grades 3-5) - Colonial Heights Public Schools

Reducing bullying and intercultural insensitivity through multicultural literature

Lillie M. Jones –  Highland Springs High School
Social Studies and SPED Teacher (Grades 9-12)  - Henrico County Public Schools 

Enhancing classroom climate and color consciousness through curricular inclusion of race and racism

Kimberly Bell –  Salem Church Middle School  
Math Teacher (Grades 6-8) -Chesterfield County Public Schools 

Increasing student achievement and engagement through the use of intercultural collaborative groups

Maria Negron –  James River High School
Spanish Teacher (Grades 9-12) - Chesterfield County Public Schools

Affirming cultural assets and promoting high self-expectations in a Spanish for Heritage Speakers class

Patricia Woodberry –  Swansboro/Chimborazo Elementary School
Gifted Education Teacher (Grades K-2) - Richmond Public Schools

Raising teacher awareness of the biases shaping the gifted education referral process and increasing the quality of gifted education referrals through talent development

Solitia Wilson –  Henry Clay Elementary School
SPED Teacher (Grades K-2) - Hanover County Public Schools

Addressing misconceptions about the abilities of young children with special needs among general education teachers

Cynthia Sinanian –  Chickahominy Middle School
Language Arts Teacher (Grades 6-8) - Hanover County Public Schools

Deepening students' sense of connection to the classroom through curricular inclusion of culturally diverse topics and authors

Debra Carper –  Lakeview Elementary School
 Teacher (Grades PK-2) - Colonial Heights Public Schools

Reducing gaps in reading skills by developing teacher-family partnerships





Want to hear more about this study? Check out these episodes of Abstract! 

Emily Hunneycutt and Cindy Sinanian (Hanover) talk about the importance of discussing race and culture in the classroom. 


Teachers from our action research project talk about their research projects on cultural diversity in their classrooms (Cindy Sinanian - Hanover, Jesse Senechal - MERC/VCU SOE, Solitia Wilson - Hanover, Jenny Smith - Henrico, Hillary Parkhouse - VCU SOE, David Naff - MERC/VCU SOE)


Members of our Professional Development for Success in Culturally Diverse Schools study team talk about the opportunities of increasingly diverse schools in the MERC region (Laura Faulcon - CCPS, Jaime Stacy - CCPS, Travis Ridley - Colonial Heights, Julie Gorlewski - VCU SOE, Jesse Senechal - MERC/VCU SOE, David Naff - MERC/VCU SOE)