The Detroit PEER leadership team and staff researchers are based in the College of Education at Wayne State University. We work with affiliated researchers from across the university and broader academic community, community researchers, and an advisory board of Detroit leaders committed to educational equity and access.
Founding Faculty Director
Sarah Winchell Lenhoff
Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, Ph.D., is the founding faculty director of the Detroit Partnership for Education Equity & Research, the Leonard Kaplan Endowed Professor, and an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at Wayne State University. She provides strategic leadership on the Detroit PEER research agenda, oversees and coordinates research projects and partnerships, and leads mixed-methods studies related to student chronic absenteeism and student enrollment. Her current projects focus on the connections between housing instability, school choice, and student attendance; the effectiveness of attendance interventions; and the relationship between neighborhood revitalization efforts and student and family long-term outcomes. Her research agenda seeks to disrupt inequality in access to education by demonstrating how structural barriers and resources shape student experiences and partnering with community members to design and evaluate efforts to coordinate education and other social sector policies to reduce barriers.More Info
founding faculty researcher
Erica B. Edwards
Erica B. Edwards, Ph.D., is a founding faculty researcher with Detroit PEER and an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at Wayne State University. She provides strategic leadership on the Detroit PEER research agenda and leads qualitative studies regarding the connections between school culture, exclusionary discipline, and chronic absenteeism. Her current projects use participatory action research to improve conditions for school attendance; investigate the relationship between exclusionary discipline and absenteeism; and capture youth perspectives on attendance. Her research agenda centers the educational experiences of vulnerable populations, with particular emphasis placed on the confluence of racism, classism, and gender-based discrimination in k-12 urban education.
founding faculty researcher
Ben Pogodzinski, Ph.D., is a founding faculty researcher with Detroit PEER and a Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at Wayne State University. He provides strategic leadership on the Detroit PEER research agenda and leads quantitative studies related to chronic absenteeism, student mobility, and early literacy intervention. His current projects focus on the relationship between teacher characteristics and student absenteeism; the impact of early literacy tutoring on student outcomes; and the affordances of a community of practice to inform improvement among out-of-school-time providers. His research agenda largely focuses on the ways in which the social organization of schools/institutions influence policy adoption and implementation, and the impact this has on student and school outcomes.
Danica Brown, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow with Detroit PEER. She began her career as a teacher and teacher leader in New Orleans charter schools. Her research draws on interdisciplinary perspectives to examine school choice policies and educational equity in K-12 schools with a focus on how the social organization of schools shapes access to educational opportunities for minoritized students. Her current research has examined the ways in which school, state, and district contexts shape charter and traditional public high schools’ college-going cultures and students’ access to college supports. As a Detroit PEER postdoctoral fellow, Danica is leading an evaluation of the 4 Pillars Project, an initiative of the Every School Day Counts Detroit coalition to support partner schools in improving chronic absence. She is also involved in a project investigating Detroit high school students’ perspectives on school climate and attendance, as well as an evaluation of a supplemental framework for analyzing student absenteeism in the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
Johnnetta Bell, MA, is a research assistant with Detroit PEER working with participatory action research (PAR) teams in Springwells and Brightmoor neighborhoods in Detroit investigating chronic absenteeism in their neighborhood schools. She is currently a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at Wayne State University. Her research interests primarily concern low-income single Black mothers (LISBMs) and their involvement in the college going process. Her commitment to engaging LISBM is grounded in a sense of humility. Johnnetta holds a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education Student Affairs, a Master of Liberal Studies in Women’s Studies with graduate certificates in Academic Advising and Community College Leadership all earned at Eastern Michigan University. She is a University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) 2022-2024 Jackson Scholar.
Bianca Burch, MSW, MA, is a research assistant with Detroit PEER. Her work has centered around supporting youth and their families by addressing needs and concerns around depression and suicide prevention, substance misuse, violence prevention, mentorship, and education. Bianca earned master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Michigan and in Higher Education Administration from Michigan State University. She is currently working on her Doctorate in education evaluation and research at Wayne State University with a focus on juvenile justice and education.
Whitney Miller, BGS, is a research assistant with Detroit PEER. Their undergraduate work at the University of Michigan was focused on post and pre-colonial visual cultures, non-hieratical pedagogy, and grassroot activism centered around racial equity. Since graduation, most of her work has been within elementary arts education as a pre-kinder through 12th grade teacher and LGBTQIA+ youth advocate. Whitney is currently working towards their MA within the Clinical Mental Health and Art Therapy program at Wayne State.More Info
Michelle D. Taylor
Michelle D. Taylor, MA, is a research assistant with Detroit PEER. Her work has centered around unpacking the inequities of black women and children through language and culture. Michelle earned a master’s degree in linguistics with an emphasis on sociolinguistics, particularly focused on intonation similarities across English variations spoken in the African diaspora. She is currently working on her Doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies at Wayne State University where her research centers around the experiences of Black women administrators in higher education. Michelle is also a 2022 Racial Equity Fellow with the Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL). She is also a University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) 2021-2023 Jackson Scholar.
Caroline Adamczyk is a PhD. candidate in Economics at Wayne State University. She received her master’s degree in Data Science from DePaul University before moving to Detroit to accept a role at the marketing agency, Carat, as an analyst. Now as a Rumble Fellow at WSU, her research focuses on Labor Economics with an emphasis on education. Currently, she is researching how different factors affect the attendance rates of Detroit Public School students.
Poonam Arya, Ph.D., is a Professor of Reading, Language, and Literature at Wayne State University where she teaches courses in literacy theory and research, and critical pedagogy. Her research interests include studying eye movements, retellings and oral readings of children as they transact with multimodal texts; digital literacies; and collaborative discussions of videos to support teachers’ reflective practice and decision-making processes. As part of Detroit PEER, she evaluated the implementation of literacy programming supported by 313Reads. Through interviewing and surveying literacy program coordinators and implementers she identified coalition partners’ understanding and implementation of evidence-based literacy practices that were culturally relevant and sustaining, as well as identified barriers to their success.
Kess Ballentine, Ph.D., is a Detroit PEER affiliated researcher an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work at Wayne State University. A former elementary and special educator, she observed how parents’ working conditions and community resource availability affected parent-school relationships. To research these interactions and work toward improved supports for parents and families, she earned her MSW and PhD at University of Pittsburgh. Her research aims to center working parents’ experiences and pursue holistic solutions by using research to support policy and practice improvements across workplaces, schools, and communities. Through interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers and community advocates affiliated with Detroit PEER, Dr. Ballentine hopes to amplify working parents’ stories and further advocacy work to develop solutions that support educational, labor, and family justice.More Info
Tasminda K. Dhaliwal
Tasminda (Tasmin) K. Dhaliwal, Ph.D., is a Detroit PEER affiliated researcher and an Assistant Professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University. Her research examines 1) the ways social and economic conditions shape the experiences of marginalized students, and 2) the effectiveness and implementation of policies designed to reduce inequality. Within this research agenda, she uses quantitative and qualitative methods to explore issues related to student homelessness and housing and school discipline. Tasmin is collaborating with Detroit PEER on a project focused on Detroit families and housing insecurity.
Jennifer Erb-Downward is a Senior Research Associate at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan where she leads the initiative's work on family, child, and youth homelessness. Over the last 10 years, her research and policy work has focused on increasing understanding of the educational and health implications of homelessness and housing instability for children and teens, with an emphasis on cross-system stakeholder engagement to strengthen available resources and support. Ms. Erb-Downward is currently collaborating with the Detroit Partnership for Education Equity & Research (Detroit PEER) and Michigan State University on a qualitative survey of Detroit parents who have experienced homelessness and housing instability. The goal of this project is to better understand the transportation and other support needs of families experiencing homelessness so services can be improved to better meet the educational needs of children experiencing a housing crisis.
Huriya Jabbar, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Educational Policy and Planning program in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research uses sociological and critical theories to examine how market-based ideas in PK-12 and higher education shape inequality, opportunity, and democracy in the U.S. She is currently studying school choice policy and school leaders' behavioral responses to competition; choice and decision-making in higher education; and teacher job choices, recruitment, and retention. As part of Detroit PEER, she is working on studies related to how families navigate school choice and how investments in public housing can transform educational, economic, and social opportunities for marginalized communities.
Kathryn L. Roberts
Kathryn L. Roberts, Ph.D., is the Interim Assistant Dean of Teacher Education and a Professor of Reading, Language, and Literature at Wayne State University. Dr. Roberts holds a bachelor’s degree from Butler University, master’s degree from Indiana University, and doctoral degree from Michigan State University. She is a former kindergarten teacher, and her interests include family literacy, visual literacy, and emergent literacy. She currently works with Detroit PEER on projects related to early literacy program implementation and impact.
Jeremy Singer, Ph.D, is an affiliated researcher with Detroit PEER, contributing to both qualitative and quantitative analyses of issues such as school choice and chronic absenteeism. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher for the Educational Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) at Michigan State University. He formerly worked as a Detroit PEER research assistant and as a teacher in Detroit Public Schools.
Yulya Truskinovsky, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Wayne State University. She holds a doctorate in Public Policy from Duke University and was previously a Sloan Fellow in Aging and Work at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. Dr. Truskinovsky is an applied micro economist who studies how individuals and families make decisions about school, work, and family caregiving. She is collaborating with Detroit PEER to study effects of families’ neighborhood environments on their school enrollment and attendance in the context of neighborhood change in Detroit.
482Forward Community Research Team
Jerrica Mickens (Team Lead), Charniece Mickens, Helen Bryant, Dorrie Story, Colbert Turner, Desiree Byrd, Monet Harris, Courtney L. Todd, and DeAntawain HunleyMore Info
Urban Neighborhood Initiatives Community Research Team
Alexandra Bolin (Team Lead), Angeles Isabel Cuevas Cervantes, Amna Khalyleh, Magdalena Alcaraz, Alexis Escoto, and Daisy RecinoMore Info
Advisory Board Member
Meagan Elliott, Ph.D., is an inaugural member of the advisory board for Detroit PEER. She is the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for the City of Detroit responsible for development and grants. In this role, she is responsible for over $2 Billion in current grants with the City, including the compliant stewardship of the entire American Rescue Plan Act portfolio. Meagan holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and Master's in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan. Prior to her current role she served as the City's Chief Parks Planner responsible for the development of several key initiatives including the first Parks and Recreation Improvement Plan post-bankruptcy, the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, and the Joe Louis Greenway. Meagan and her husband Patrick have two sons, 6 and 3 years old.
Advisory Board Member
Alejandra Gomez is an inaugural member of the advisory board for Detroit PEER. She is the Education Initiatives Director at Urban Neighborhood Initiatives, a community development nonprofit in the Springwells neighborhood of Detroit. Alejandra graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Health Policy Studies.
Advisory Board Member
Imani Harris, BA, is an inaugural member of the Detroit PEER advisory board. Imani earned her Bachelor's degree in journalism and Black studies from Northwestern University in June of 2022, using these two fields as a way to intertwine narrative and Blackness as necessary tools of storytelling as a means of liberation. She is currently the Communications lead for 482Forward, an education advocacy organization that works in communities across Detroit. Her work at 482Forward revolves around building up the messaging tactics and communications strategies that engage parents, students, and others invested in schools and motivates every-day Detroiters to use their voice to demand to be heard. She was a founding member of the 482Forward Youth Collective and a proud graduate of DPSCD’s Renaissance High School.
Advisory Board Member
Alycia Meriweather is an inaugural member of the advisory board for Detroit PEER. She is the deputy superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District. She has served the district for more than 20 years, as a middle school science teacher, a lead teacher, curriculum writer, professional development facilitator, Supervisor for Middle School Science, Executive Director for the Office of Curriculum, and Interim Superintendent. She is passionate about ensuring equitable education and unique learning experiences for Detroit teachers and students and has worked diligently toward this goal. She is a graduate of Detroit Public Schools, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, and she is currently pursuing her doctorate in educational leadership & policy studies at Wayne State University.
Advisory Board Member
Rev. Larry Simmons is an inaugural member of the advisory board for Detroit PEER. He is the executive director of the Brightmoor Alliance. Rev. Simmons is a born-again Christian joyfully married to Betty Simmons. They have a blended family of eight sons. Rev. Simmons is a graduate of Detroit Public Schools (Central High School ), Wayne State University in Computer Science, and Washtenaw Community College in Applied Technologies. Rev. Simmons has been a fixture in service in Detroit for decades, having served as Political Director for Mayor Coleman A. Young, Chief Information Officer/Director of Strategic Planning for Wayne County, and executive positions in human services. He recently retired as Pastor of Baber Memorial A.M.E Church. Representing Christ and our community, Rev. Simmons has been honored to serve on two of the most significant commissions for our future, The Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children and the Hope Starts Here Coalition for Early Childhood. He is a co-founder of the Every School Day Counts Detroit coalition.