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Minority Postdoctoral Fellow Examines Compensatory Education

Gregory Anderson is the eldest child of a black South African family that was forced to leave their homeland in the 1960s. As a result of this experience, he believes strongly in providing disadvantaged students with some form of compensatory education or academic development to ensure their success. He will use his opportunity as a Minority Postdoctoral Fellow at Teachers College to study these programs at the postsecondary education level.

Anderson received his Ph.D. in Sociology from City University of New York, Graduate School and University Center. He received his B.A. and M.A. in Sociology from the University of Toronto. He was a teaching assistant at the University of Toronto and an adjunct instructor at Queens College in the sociology of education.

His interest in education policy issues began while he worked as a research/advocacy specialist for the Community Service Society of New York's Education Policy Unit in 1993 and 1994. There he researched elementary and intermediate public schools and collaborated on A User's Guide to New York City Public Elementary and Intermediate Schools: Selected Statistics, 1992-93.

For his dissertation research, Anderson spent two years studying the open admissions policy and compensatory education initiatives of the University of the Western Cape in South Africa with the support of a fellowship from the Spencer Foundation. He spent nearly a year at the University, itself, in their Education Policy Unit. "The time I spent at the EPU gave me a greater appreciation for the role that research plays in shaping public policy on a national level. It also helped me recognize the need to maintain a global perspective in one's research," Anderson noted.

Anderson wants to expand that research by comparing access to postsecondary education in South Africa with access to higher education in the United States. The University of the Western Cape is unique in South Africa because of the open admissions policy it enacted in 1982. As a result of the rapidly changing student body, the University developed courses and techniques to help disadvantaged students acquire skills needed to compete at the college level. Anderson studied the ideas behind this program and analyzed its strengths and weaknesses.

As a Minority Postdoctoral Fellow, Anderson will look at the issue of compensatory education in CUNY and compare it to the program at the University of the Western Cape. By observing classes and interviewing students and teachers involved in remedial education at CUNY, he wants to analyze the barriers minority students face. Pedagogical factors will not be his only focus. He will also consider issues of funding, politics, class, ethnicity and race. Although he is a believer in compensatory education, Anderson is well aware that some programs are poorly designed, that some students waste these opportunities, and that some institutions render their programs ineffective through indifference or hostility.

"We need a body of scholarship that portrays what is being done, what pedagogy or theory underlies current efforts, how well programs meet or fail to meet their goals, and why," Anderson explained. "I hope that my research will contribute to that knowledge."

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