A ● Graduate students can apply for a Koppitz
fellowship by Nov. 15 at www.apa.org/apf/
IMPROVING SCHOOL ENGAGEMENT
Anna Markowitz works to understand the effects
of education policy with an APF graduate student fellowship
BY TORI DEANGELIS
American Psychological Foundation
In 2007 when Anna Markowitz, PhD, was teaching English at a low-income middle school in California, she saw many students expressing stress, anxiety, anger and depression. The teachers and students were struggling with the academic requirements of No Child Left Behind, which had been in place for six years. Like many schools, the school was failing to meet the law’s rigorous
standards, and the pressure meant teachers were focusing almost exclu-
sively on academics. “[Fellow teachers] would say things like, ‘Don’t
get too attached [to the students]; do what you need to do,’” Markowitz
recalls. “But it seemed to me that my kids were asking me all the time to
get attached and to bond with them.”
In 2011, when she started graduate school in psychology at George-
town University, Markowitz decided to take a closer look at these issues.
Was it in fact important that students feel emotionally connected to
their schools, something suggested by
research but not tested rigorously? And
could policy influence students’ engage-
ment with school?
A $25,000 Elizabeth Munsterberg
Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate
Student Fellowship from APF enabled
Markowitz to address those questions.
She was one of six who received the
fellowship in 2015.
In her dissertation, Markowitz found
that youngsters who were more emotionally engaged with their schools—who
felt safe, liked their school and evaluated their teachers and peer community
positively, for example—had higher
self-esteem, fewer depressive symptoms
and less delinquent behavior than those
with more tenuous connections to school.
In a second analysis, she examined
the effects of No Child Left Behind on
students’ sense of school engagement.
Students in states that rigorously implemented the law were more engaged with
their schools than students in states that
followed the law less strictly, she found.
But as time went on, students in states
that adopted the policy more rigorously
became less engaged with school. These
findings suggest that policies like No
Child can have complicated effects.
Now, as a postdoctoral researcher
at the University of Virginia’s
EdPolicy Works center, she will continue
exploring these topics with the help of
the APF grant. ■
Dr. Anna Markowitz
on the effects of
No Child Left Behind
with a $25,000 Elizabeth
Award from APF.