Hi, I’m Dr. Elise Castillo:
I am an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. I am also a 2023-2024 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow.
I conduct qualitative research on school choice policies, focusing on their possibilities for, and limitations to, advancing racially integrated, equitable, and democratic public education. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I employ concepts from political science, sociology, and critical policy analysis.
I have a particular interest in understanding how diverse Asian American students and families experience and make sense of school choice and integration policies. My work examines this topic in Greater Hartford, Connecticut, and New York City.
Related work examines the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on school integration organizing in New York City, where school choice has exacerbated segregation over the last two decades; and how progressive and community-based charter schools can advance or hinder racial equity and integration.
My work has been published in various academic journals, including American Journal of Education; Education Policy Analysis Archives; and Race, Ethnicity, and Education. In addition, I have shared my work with broader audiences in The Connecticut Mirror and the Have You Heard podcast.
Prior to my academic career, I taught middle and high school English in New York City public schools.
Ph.D in Education Policy
University of California, Berkeley
MA in Education Policy
University of California, Berkeley
MS in Teaching (Adolescent English)
BA in English and Creative Writing
Castillo, E. (2022). “More of the diversity aspect and less of the desegregation aspect”: Asian Americans and desegregation in metropolitan Hartford. Race, Ethnicity, and Education.
Debs, M., Makris, M. V., Castillo, E., Rodriguez, A.*, Smith, A.*, & Ingall, J. S.* (2022). Building civic capacity: The history and landscape of NYC integration activism, 2012–2021. Teachers College Record. 124(6), 118–150. https://doi.org/10.1177/01614681221111426
Castillo, E., Makris, M. V., & Debs, M. (2021). Integration versus meritocracy? Competing educational goals during the Covid-19 pandemic. AERA Open.
Castillo, E. (2020). “Doing what it takes to keep the school open”: The philanthropic networks of progressive charter schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 28(121), 1-26.
Castillo, E. (2020). A neoliberal grammar of schooling? How a progressive charter school moved toward market values. American Journal of Education, 26(4), 519-547.
Castillo, E., La Londe, P. G., Owens, S., Scott, J., DeBray, E., & Lubienski, C. (2020). E-Advocacy among intermediary organizations: Brokering knowledge through blogs. Urban Education.
Hernández, L. E., & Castillo, E. (2020). Citizenship development and the market’s impact: Examining democratic learning in charter schools in two regions. Educational Policy.
Scott, J., DeBray, E., Lubienski, C., La Londe, P. G., Castillo, E., & Owens, S. (2017). Urban regimes, intermediary organization networks, and research use: Patterns across three school districts. Peabody Journal of Education, 92(1), 16–28.
Castillo, E. (2022, February 15). In expanding school choice, let’s not lose sight of Asian American students. CT Viewpoints. The Connecticut Mirror.
Castillo, E. (2019). Progressive charter schools v. the educational marketplace. [Audio podcast episode]. In Have You Heard.
I adapted this syllabus from prior Analyzing Schools syllabi from Drs. Stefanie Wong, Andrea Dyrness, and Jack Dougherty.
This undergraduate course introduces the study of schooling within an interdisciplinary framework. From sociology and political science, we investigate the resources, structures, and social and political contexts influencing student opportunities and outcomes in the United States. From anthropology, we examine how classroom and school cultures shape experiences of teaching and learning. From psychology, we contrast theories of learning, both in the abstract and in practice. From philosophy, we examine competing educational goals and their underlying assumptions regarding human nature, justice, and democracy. In addition, a community learning component, where students observe and participate in nearby K–12 classrooms for three hours per week, is integrated with course readings and written assignments.
Education Reform, Past and Present
I adapted this syllabus from prior Education Reform, Past and Present, syllabi from Dr. Jack Dougherty.
To what aims have education reformers aspired over time? When and how did schools become tools for divergent goals, such as reducing inequality, advancing capitalism, creating cultural uniformity, and liberating oppressed peoples? Why have reforms succeeded or failed to achieve these ends, and what were some of the unintended consequences? Over a century of education reforms, what has changed about public schooling, and what has remained the same? In this mid-level undergraduate course, we compare and contrast selected movements, both past and present, to reform elementary, secondary, and higher education in the United States from the nineteenth-century Common School era to the modern day. We examine how these reform movements facilitated or hindered equitable educational opportunity and access for minoritized communities.
School Choice, Equity, and Democracy
How do families choose schools for their children? How do school choice policies, such as those advancing charter schools, magnet schools, and vouchers, advance or constrain equitable access to education, particularly for poor families and families of color? What are the democratic aims of public education, and how do school choice policies advance or constrain these aims? In this advanced undergraduate elective, students investigate these questions while developing their qualitative research skills through interview and observation experiences.
I adapted this syllabus from prior Race, Class, and Educational Policy syllabi from Drs. Jack Dougherty and Stefanie Wong.
Educational inequities have been persistent in the U.S. educational system for decades. For as long as there have been inequities, though, scholars, educators, parents, community members, and others have sought to understand and challenge these injustices. In this course, we will explore the following questions: How do various scholars make sense of and explain educational inequalities? What role have educational policies played in the production and reproduction of inequalities? How do different policies attempt to address disparities? We will consider the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, immigrant status, and other categories of difference in the examination of educational (in)equity.
Privatization and Public Policy
Governments increasingly contract or partner with the private sector to deliver public goods and services based on the theory that doing so will enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Although policymakers often attend to the economics of privatization, this course explores privatization’s political and social dimensions, asking, who gains and who loses when public goods and services are privatized? In this advanced undergraduate elective, we employ critical policy analysis and critical race theory to examine theories underlying privatization, evidence of its impact, and debates regarding its costs and benefits. This course also includes a community learning component: a partnership with The Connecticut Mirror, to which students will submit for publication short evidence-based opinion pieces on a privatization topic impacting Connecticut residents.
In Fall 2020, Privatization and Public Policy students published opinion pieces in The Connecticut Mirror on state and national privatization topics. Read them here, and see a Trinity College news article describing the course here.
*N.B. If you use any parts of these syllabi for your own courses, please cite me and the scholars I name above, whose syllabi I adapted.
*Adapted, with thanks, from Dr. Jack Dougherty’s advice to students.
I am on leave during the 2023-2024 academic year. If you would like to request a reference or recommendation letter from me, you must email me your request AND send me the materials described below by .
For students whom I have gotten to know as their professor and/or advisor, I am usually very willing to serve as a reference or to write a letter of recommendation for employment opportunities and graduate school. (If you are interested in the latter, I encourage you to read Dr. Jack Dougherty’s excellent advice on graduate school.)
That said, please think carefully about what I can and cannot address as your reference or in a recommendation letter. For example, if a potential employer wants specific information about your ability to work with young children, and I have never observed you doing so, I am probably not the best choice for you.
To request a reference or recommendation letter, here is how to proceed:
To request listing me as a reference:
Send me an email stating that you wish to list me as a reference. This usually means that you will provide my name and contact information, and someone from an organization will contact me.
In your email, include the name of the person or organization that might contact me, and a description and/or website about the position or program.
To request a recommendation letter:
Writing a recommendation letter requires more work from both me and you. Please give me at least two weeks’ advance notice. I also encourage you to come to my office hours to discuss your plans with me.
Email me your request, and include either:
A 1–2 paragraph response addressing the question, “Why are you and this program a good match for one another?” or
A draft of your personal statement for the application. Reading your words helps me to tailor my letter for your audience.
Please also send me your resume.
Include clear instructions about the deadline and where to send my letter. Some programs request that I email it directly to them, whereas others require you to complete an online form that automatically sends me a link to upload your letter.
Finally, please keep me posted on the outcome of your application!